British journalist 'kidnapped in Somalia'

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The Independent Online

Two foreign journalists have been kidnapped in Somalia while reporting on the wave of piracy off the coast of the Horn of Africa nation.

Both abductees are thought to be British according to police in the semi-autonomous region of Puntland where the two men were seized.

"I think both the journalists are British but we shall investigate ... we are sending police to free them," Puntland's police spokesman Abshir Said Jama told Reuters.

Police believe the men who are thought to have been in the country for one week have been taken to the mountains.

There has been no confirmation of the reporters' identities.

Two journalists, a Canadian and an Australian were abducted in Somalia in August and are still being held.

Kidnapping for ransom has become rife in the lawless nation which has been without an effective government since 1991.

Somalia has become one of the most difficult countries in the world for journalists. Somali reporters are frequently targeted by Islamic insurgents, criminal gangs, foreign occupying troops and militia connected to the transitional government as the groups vie for power in the country. Foreign journalists and international staff from NGOs rarely enter the country now and have to hire teams of armed security men to do so. There has been a string of assassinations and abductions targeting foreigners this year.

Puntland has separated itself from the worst of the fighting between Islamists and Ethiopian troops that are propping up the discredited transitional authorities in the capital Mogadishu. Nonetheless its major ports have become havens for pirates and criminal gangs are rampant throughout the region.

There has been a huge upsurge in piracy in the last 12 months culminating in the eye-catching seizure of the Sirius Star tanker carrying two million barrels of oil earlier this month. Nearly 300 crew and 15 ships are currently being held for ransom including a Ukrainian ship with 33 battle tanks in its hold.

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