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Kenya reinforces security to hunt for kidnappers of aid workers

Friday, October 14, 2011

Laaska News Oct. 14,2011


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By Daniel Ooko, Stephen Ingati and Chrispinus Omar

NAIROBI, Oct. 13 (Xinhua) — Kenyan authorities have enhanced security along the border with Somalia after suspected Al-Shabaab militants kidnapped two international staff working for the medical charity, Medicins Sans Frontieres (MSF) earlier on Thursday.

Police spokesman Eric Kiraithe confirmed late on Thursday the two Spaniard doctors were kidnapped while on duty at the Ifo Camp in Dadaab on Thursday.

Kiraithe said a Kenyan driver, who was with the two Spaniards, suffered injuries after the abductors shot and threw him out of the vehicle as they sped away towards the common frontier.

“The incident occurred at about 1 p.m. local time (1000 GMT) when a driver who was taking them around was shot and thrown out of the vehicle. He is in a serious condition,” Kiraithe said.

“We have deployed a helicopter to the area as a search intensified for the kidnapped women. There is a massive manhunt going on in the region at the moment to rescue the women,” he added.

MSF Regional Information Officer Maimouna Jallow also confirmed the kidnapping, saying the two workers are still missing while the injured driver was hospitalized and is in stable condition.

“Two international staff, both Spanish, were taken. As yet, MSF has not been able to re-establish contact with the two staff taken. A crisis team has been set up to deal with this incident, and the families have been informed,” Jallow said.

MSF-Spain president Jose Antonio Bastos who condemned the attack said the medical charity was in contact with all relevant authorities to ensure swift and safe return of the two workers.

“We strongly condemn this attack. MSF is in contact with all the relevant authorities and is doing all it can to ensure the swift and safe return of our colleagues. Meanwhile, our thoughts are with them and with their families in this difficult time,” Bastos said in a statement received in Nairobi.

“In order to ensure a rapid and safe resolution of the incident, MSF will not provide any further information for the moment. No interviews are available at present.”

Spanish authority reportedly said the women worked in logistics for the agency, but would not provide their identities or further details about the incident but said their families have been informed.

Regional police chief Leo Nyongesa said contingents of security forces from various units had been deployed to spearhead the search.

“The search is ongoing but there are heavy rains in the area and it is hampering the operations. We are following them by road and air. We have closed the borders. We are tracking them down,” Nyongesa told Xinhua by telephone.

“We have mobilized all the officers and alerted those at the border to ensure that no vehicle exits the country to Somalia. The whole border area is now sealed.”

Thursday’s incident was the third to take place in two months, in which British and French women were abducted by gunmen who took them away to lawless Somalia.

Last month, 56-year-old Briton Judith Tebbutt was kidnapped by gunmen from a remote Kenyan resort at Kiwayu, Lamu. But her husband David was killed.

Tebbutt is believed to be held by the Islamist insurgents of Al- Shabaab in Somalia.

French woman Marieu Dedieu was kidnapped on Manda Island on Oct. 1 while a Kenyan driver working for the Care charity was abducted from Dadaab on Sept. 21.

Dadaab, about 80 kilometers from the Somali border, is the largest refugee complex in the world. It houses thousands of people who have fled war and famine in the Horn of Africa.

The latest incursion took place in spite of heightened security operations on the vast Kenya-Somalia border, on land, sea and air.

The authorities confirmed that naval ships have been deployed in the high seas while boats from the Maritime Police Unit, Kenya Wildlife Service, the Fisheries department as well as the Navy were patrolling the coastline.

Military and police helicopters were also being used for aerial surveillance at the Coast round the clock.

Local sources said the two hostages were driving from a facility known as Health Post Q when they were captured.

“The reports we have at the moment is that they were the only three in the vehicle at the time, that is the two women and the driver and that is when they were attacked,” he added.

“We believe they have been taken to Somalia because the four- wheel vehicle was seen speeding towards the border with Somalia.”

International aid workers including UN staff often travel with armed Kenyan police escorts from their bases to the various camps. They are not allowed, under their regulations, to travel on their own.

The attack occurred as Kenya, Tanzania and Seychelles appealed to the international community to help bring a lasting peace to Somalia, saying continued instability in the war-torn nation was affecting tourism activities in the region.

The ministers from the three nations said political instability in Somalia has also resulted into prevalence of piracy along the Eastern Coast of the Indian Ocean which have over time inhibited growth of cruised tourism.

“The situation in Somalia is not only worrying but also greatly endangers peace, security and stability,” the ministers said.
Laaska News.