British and French aid workers seized in Somalia

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The Independent Online

Unidentified gunmen raided a French aid agency office and kidnapped a French woman and a British man, claim local aid workers of charity Action Against Hunger (ACF).

Unidentified gunmen raided a French aid agency office and kidnapped a French woman and a British man, claim local aid workers of charity Action Against Hunger (ACF).

The aid workers, said about 20 gunmen in a chopped-down four-wheel-drive vehicle mounted with a double-barreled anti-aircraft gun broke down the gate of the ACF compound in south Mogadishu at 2 a.m. and took the two aid workers away.

At the Paris headquarters of the agency, spokeswoman Beatrice Dervau said the names of the two would be withheld pending notification of their families. It was not clear whether the two were based in Mogadishu or only on a brief assignment. Local clan elders were reported to be negotiating with the gunmen for the release of the aid workers.

Most international aid agencies do not station non-Somali employees in the country precisely for fear of kidnapping, but they do send foreign personnel in on short-term assignments. The local ACF staff said the mastermind of the attack appeared to be a former security guard who was recently fired or laid off.

There is very little gainful employment for young men in the Somali capital. Most who do work are employed either as militiamen by faction leaders and the Islamic courts or as security guards.

Somalia has not had a national government since January 1991 when the 21-year dictatorship of President Mohamed Siad Barre was overthrown by leaders of dissident political factions, and the country descended into chaos. Factional fighting has all but ceased in Mogadishu, but banditry carried out by disgruntled militamen remains a serious problem.

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