'It's marvellous to be free' says abducted aid worker Frans Barnard

Click to follow
The Independent Online

A British aid worker abducted by masked gunmen in Somalia today spoke of his joy after being released by his captors - describing his freedom as "bloody marvellous".



Zimbabwe-born Frans Barnard, who was working for Save the Children, is now on his way to a place of safety six days after his ordeal began, the charity said.

Anna Ford, Save the Children spokeswoman, said they had spoken to him twice since his release.

"We spoke to him and he said 'It is bloody marvellous' - he confirmed that he was safe and well and was confident in the people who were looking after him," she said.

"We can confirm that he has been released by his kidnappers and he is now in the hands of clan elders in Somalia.

"It was those clan elders who organised his release and he is currently on his way to a place of safety.

"We are just hugely, hugely grateful to the clan elders for everything that they have done.

"It speaks volumes about Somalian society that they were able to organise and resolve this issue despite all the difficulties.

"We would like to thank everybody who has helped us."

She added that the clan elders had seen it as a "point of honour" to work for Mr Barnard's release.

"They invited us into their community to do the work that we are doing and they saw Frans as their guest and they did everything possible to get him to safety.

"It was a point of honour for them to do that. He is now being protected by the local administration and clan elders."

Mr Barnard was taken from a guesthouse compound in Adado, a small town close to the border with Ethiopia, on Thursday night.

Save the Children has previously confirmed that he was being looked after and was in good spirits.

A Somali national who was also taken from the compound with him was released unharmed within hours.

The men were working with the charity as it carried out a feasibility assessment into setting up a programme to help sick and malnourished children and their families in the area.

Tensions have been running high in the lawless region, where armed forces include pirate gangs and factions of militias allied to the government.

Kidnapping for ransom is not uncommon in the area, though hostages are usually released unharmed.

The stricken Horn of Africa nation has been beset by famine and years of fighting between rival warlords leading to thousands of deaths.

It has had no functioning central government for nearly 20 years. But the western part of the country had been considered one of its safer areas.

Though most aid agencies have pulled out of the region, some had recently considered a return.

Save the Children has been working in Somalia for more than 40 years, with a focus on improving access to food, basic healthcare and education.

The charity is largely based in the central Hiran region, Karkaar in the north east and in the Togdheer region.

Its work has been limited by the security situation but this year it began to pool resources with two other branches of the International Save the Children Alliance - Denmark and Finland - to become a unified presence in the country.

The charity's chief executive, Justin Forsyth, said the release had been secured with the help of clan elders and insisted no money had been involved.

"I can categorically say that we paid no ransom at all," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme, saying that doing so would have put the charity's other workers at risk and compromised their work in Somalia.

"He is well, he is in good spirits and he is on his way to a place of safety. He has been looked after by the kidnappers," Mr Forsyth said.

He added that work done with the local community helped ensure Mr Barnard was released as people "felt it was wrong that he had been kidnapped", leading elders to intervene.











The charity's chief executive, Justin Forsyth, said the release had been secured with the help of clan elders and insisted no money had been involved.

"I can categorically say that we paid no ransom at all," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme, saying that doing so would have put the charity's other workers at risk and compromised their work in Somalia.



"He is well, he is in good spirits and he is on his way to a place of safety. He has been looked after by the kidnappers," Mr Forsyth said.



He added that work done with the local community helped ensure Mr Barnard was released as people "felt it was wrong that he had been kidnapped", leading elders to intervene.









Mr Barnard is "safe" and "well" under the protection of the Himan and Heeb administration which secured his release with the support of local communities and clan elders, Mr Forsyth said later.



"We are very optimistic about the news and hope to see him soon," he said in a statement.



"We would like to thank everyone who has helped us during this extremely difficult time, not least the president of Himan and Heeb and the Somali clans who came together and worked tirelessly to negotiate Frans' release.



"Crucial support was also received from the chairman of Centre for Peace and Democracy, a local NGO.



"They invited Save the Children into their community to do vital humanitarian work and they saw Frans as their guest. They did everything possible to get him to safety when he was kidnapped.



"We believe Frans was abducted by an independent group of criminals with no political affiliation or support from other groups in the region.



"Save the Children's policy is not to pay ransoms and we did not pay a ransom to secure Frans' release. The release was negotiated by the clan elders and we are extremely grateful to them.



"We have worked in Somalia for 40 years and we will continue to work there to help some of the most vulnerable children in the world get proper food, healthcare and an education."



















David Cameron told the House of Commons he was delighted by the release of Mr Barnard.

"We've been in close contact with Save the Children over the kidnap of Frans Barnard, who was doing vitally important work on their behalf in Somalia and we're delighted by the news that he's been freed by his kidnappers," the Prime Minister said.



"Let me praise the professionalism of Save the Children and also thank the Somali clan members who were involved in his release.



"I'm sure it will be good for him to be back with his family after what must have been a very, very frightening and difficult few days."















Mrs Ford said later that Mr Barnard had arrived back in Adado.



"He has had a shower, he has had a good meal, and he is being looked after by the local president. Our main objective now is to reunite him with his family as soon as possible," she said.





Comments