Rebels abduct new Somali women's minister

Somalia's new minister for women was snatched by Islamist rebels 30km outside the capital, Mogadishu, almost immediately after her appointment was announced, a relative said yesterday.

Asha Osman Aqil was grabbed in an area controlled by al-Shabaab militants late after the country's fragile government announced its new cabinet.

"Asha is now being interrogated in Balad by al-Shabaab," the relative said. "She told them she was aware of her nomination and had not contacted the government at all and had not accepted the vacancy."

The rebels and the government have not commented.