September 23 2008 at 03:49PM — Mogadishu – Gunmen have kidnapped two foreign aid workers from eastern Ethiopia and taken them to central Somalia, officials and the aid agency Medecins du Monde said on Tuesday.
“The two foreign aid workers – a male and a female – were kidnapped on Monday… in Ethiopia and were taken to central Somalia,” said Hareri Hassan Barre, the commissioner for the Balanbale district in central Somalia.
“We are getting information that they are French nationals, but we have not confirmed that,” he added.
The pair was kidnapped from Ethiopia’s Fadhigaradle village, where they were visiting drought-hit areas.
“We have sent security forces to search for the aid workers, who were brought to the region late on Monday,” said Ali Sheikh Hashi, another local official.
French aid agency Medecins du Monde, for whom the pair works, confirmed the abductions.
“The organisation is in permanent contact with the authorities, its team on the ground as well as other actors on the field,” it said in a statement.
Armed Somali gangs have carried out scores of kidnappings in recent months, often targeting foreigners or Somalis working with international organisations to demand ransoms.
On Monday, Somali gunmen freed a German national and his Somali wife who had been kidnapped over the weekend in the northern Somali breakaway state of Puntland.
Kidnappers have also been holding three journalists – a Canadian, an Australian and a Somali – since August 23 and are reportedly demanding $2,5-million (about R17-million) for their release.
Somalia has been torn by 17 years of almost uninterrupted civil conflict since the 1991 ouster of former president Mohamed Siad Barre. Numerous UN-backed initiatives have failed to restore stability in the the country.
Thousands of civilians have died in the guerrilla war that has pitted invading Ethiopian troops against Islamist insurgents since 2007. – Sapa-AFP