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Aid agency confirms abduction of three Kenyan workers in northern Somalia

Source:Xinhua Published: 2012-7-12 16:09:28

An international aid agency on Thursday confirmed the abduction of three Kenyan aid workers in restive northern Somalia late Wednesday.

International Aid Services (IAS) said its team was attacked by an armed group of people near Galkayo in Puntland at about 5:30 p.m. (1430 GMT) on Wednesday in an incident which also left a local staff member shot and critically injured.

"The team was travelling in two vehicles including an escort car with three armed Puntland Police Officers who were overpowered by the attackers," IAS Executive Director Leif Zetterlund said.

"One local staff was shot and critically injured and three Kenyan expatriates were kidnapped and taken to an unknown destination," Zetterlund said in a statement received here Thursday.

Several U.N. and aid agencies have offices in Galakyo township, which enjoys relative peace compared to other regions in the south of the Horn of African nation, which is mostly controlled by Islamists.

The abductions come after several kidnappings of foreigners in recent weeks in northern Kenya, which is close to the border with largely lawless Somalia and which has been blamed on Al-Shabaab.

It is the sixth kidnapping of foreigners by Somali insurgents in the past seven months, following kidnappings of British and French tourists, Spanish women working for MSF and Norwegian Refugee Council staff.

The development came as Kenyan troops pursue militants in southern Somalia to drive out Al-Shabaab agents Nairobi says are behind the recent killings, kidnappings and terror activities on its territory.

The aid agency said it was in touch with local authorities in Galkayo which were helping it to secure the release of the abducted staff.

"In the meantime, our hearts and thoughts and prayers are with our staff and their families. We trust that this matter will be resolved as soon as possible," Zetterlund said.

The Horn of Africa, which has had no effective central government for more than two decades, is one of the world's most risky regions for aid workers.

Kenya blamed Al-Shabaab for a string of attacks and kidnappings in Kenya, including those of four Europeans. The Kenyan government said the kidnappings threatened tourism, a key source of revenue for the country.

However, the Al-Qaeda allied insurgents have denied responsibility and have demanded the Kenyans withdraw from their territory or face fresh terror attacks.
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