Aid worker shot dead at hospital in Somalia

An Italian woman who devoted more than 30 years to working with Somalis suffering from tuberculosis and famine, has been shot dead in the breakaway state of Somaliland.

Annalena Tonelli, 60, who was awarded this year's Nansen prize, given annually for outstanding work by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, was killed in the grounds of the hospital she founded at Borama, in the far north-west of Somalia.

Abdulkadir Suleman Ali, a local government official in Borama, said: "The man waited for Annalena Tonelli outside one of the tuberculosis wards, under the shade of a tree. He fired two rounds from a pistol at her forehead." No one has been arrested, and the motive is not known.

Dr Tonelli was a devout Christian who knew from a young age that she wanted to work among the poor. She never attempted to proselytise, living as a Christian in rigidly orthodox Muslim communities, slowly winning their affection by her devotion.

She worked first among Somalis living in north-east Kenya, then later in Somalia. For years she helped famine-struck communities in the south of the country, an experience she said was "so traumatising that it put my faith in danger". Later she founded two hospitals in Somaliland. A lawyer by training, she later gained several diplomas in medicine, including one from London in tropical medicine.

Naming her for the Nansen prize in April, Ruud Lubbers, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, said: "Dr Tonelli lives a modest life, eating the same food she gives her patients and she owns no property. Over the past three decades ... her quiet devotion to helping those in need is living proof that individuals can still make a tremendous difference." Yesterday he added: "She dedicated her life to helping others, carrying out her noble mission in remote, difficult places little noticed by the outside world. In doing so she touched the lives of thousands of people. We mourn the loss of a truly great woman."

Dr Tonelli was born and raised in Forli, near Italy's Adriatic coast. She inspired huge affection and support in her home town, where the local people raised €20,000 (£14,000) a month to keep her work going. A local group called the Committee for the Struggle against World Hunger co-ordinated the effort to help her. Yesterday Ivano Natali, a member, said: "We are incredulous about the killing. As a solitary woman she was in danger and under threat for 35 years, but no harm befell her until now. She was always working to support the rights of Somalis."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Interactive / Mobile Developer

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This digital production agency ...

Recruitment Genius: PHP Developer - Midweight

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This digital production agency ...

Recruitment Genius: Junior Front End Developer

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This digital production agency ...

Recruitment Genius: Front End Developer - Midweight / Senior

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This digital production agency ...

Day In a Page

Giants Club: After wholesale butchery of Idi Amin's regime, Uganda’s giants flourish once again

Uganda's giants are flourishing once again

After the wholesale butchery of Idi Amin's regime, elephant populations are finally recovering
The London: After 350 years, the riddle of Britain's exploding fleet is finally solved

After 350 years, the riddle of Britain's exploding fleet is finally solved

Archaeologists will recover a crucial item from the wreck of the London which could help shed more light on what happened in the vessel's final seconds
Airbus has patented a jet that could fly from London to New York in one hour

Airbus has patented a jet that could fly from London to New York in one hour

The invention involves turbojets and ramjets - a type of jet engine - and a rocket motor
10 best sun creams for kids

10 best sun creams for kids

Protect delicate and sensitive skin with products specially formulated for little ones
Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks
The haunting of Shirley Jackson: Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?

The haunting of Shirley Jackson

Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?
Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
Ashes 2015: Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

A woefully out-of-form Michael Clarke embodies his team's fragile Ashes campaign, says Michael Calvin