Somali Kidnappers Release UN Official Held for Two Months

August 28th, 2008 | by addis portal |

By Hamsa Omar

Aug. 28 (Bloomberg) — Somali kidnappers freed the local head of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees yesterday two months after abducting him.

“I am just so happy to be with my family tonight,” Hassan Mohamed Ali Keynan said in a telephone interview in Mogadishu, the capital. “I have been in captivity for so long I don’t even know the date, but I remember I was taken on June 21.”

Ali said he was treated well by his captors and that no ransom was paid for his release. He said he was able to convince the kidnappers of the merits of the humanitarian work UNCHR carries out in Somalia.

He was released on the same day that the medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres announced it was closing a clinic in Mogadishu due to worsening violence. Aid workers and journalists have become targets of kidnappers in recent months as insecurity spreads across the east African nation.

Two foreign journalists and a Somali photographer were kidnapped on Aug. 23 and are being held in a location northeast of Mogadishu by a militia group, according to the National Union of Somali Journalists said.

Amanda Landhout, 26, a Canadian freelancer, Australian photojournalist Nigel Brennan and Abdi Fatah Mohamed Elmi, a Somali photojournalist, were kidnapped by unidentified gunmen yesterday, along with a local driver and a translator, according to eye witnesses and local police.

Somalia hasn’t had a functioning central administration since the ouster of former dictator Mohammed Siad Barre in 1991.

Ethiopia

Troops from neighboring Ethiopia invaded Somalia in December 2006 to help the UN -backed transitional federal government oust the Islamic Courts Union, a group of Islamists that took power in southern and central parts of the country the previous June.

As many as 10,000 Ethiopian soldiers have remained in Somalia to support the transitional government that is battling an Iraq-style insurgency by Islamist and clan-based militias.

The fighting has forced at least 750,000 Somalis to flee their homes amidst the fighting. About 3.2 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance due to drought and civil war, according to figures released yesterday by the Food and Agriculture Organization-managed Food Security Analysis Unit for Somalia.

MSF said it was closing its clinic because of rising violence in the area.

“The closure comes following a further deterioration of the situation in the area where the clinic is located,” the agency said yesterday in a statement issued in neighboring Kenya. “There has been a notable increase in violence, including mortars landing close to the clinic.”

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