European Aid Workers Released in Somalia
By Derek Kilner Nairobi
28 April 2009
Gunmen in Somalia have released two European aid workers abducted nine days earlier.
The two aid workers, one Belgian and one Dutch, had been working for Doctors Without Borders. They were abducted by a group of gunmen on April 19 while traveling between towns in the Bakool region of southern Somalia, near the border with Ethiopia.
A clan leader in Bakool, Ali Mumin, confirmed their release.
He said elders and clerics in the region had been in discussions with the captors. He said no ransom had been paid.
The kidnappers had previously demanded a $4 million ransom for the hostages. Members of the al-Shabab, the hard-line Islamist militia that controls the area were also involved in securing the release of the aid workers.
Abductions of aid workers are common in Somalia. According to the United Nations, 16 aid workers are being held in Somalia, including four Europeans and two Kenyans. A total of 26 aid workers were abducted in 2008, and 35 killed.
Aid officials warn the insecurity threatens the humanitarian effort in Somalia, where more than three million people, or almost half the population, require emergency food aid.
Meanwhile, al-Shabab has released three radio journalists it detained Monday in Baidoa, the central town that used to house the parliament. Their station, Radio Jubba, was also allowed to return to the air.
Local media reported the militia objected to the station's coverage of the security situation in the area, and the station will continue to be barred from broadcasting music.
Somalia's internationally-backed government is struggling to extend its control beyond a small part of the capital, Mogadishu.
Monday, Somali President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed met with Sudan President Omar al-Bashir, to discuss Sudanese support for training Somalia's security forces.
Last week, international donors pledged more than $200 million to the government to improve security in the country.