Somali pirates kidnap disabled French woman on Kenyan island


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The Independent Online

A French woman became the latest victim of Somali kidnappers after she was snatched from her home by an armed gang at a holiday resort in northern Kenya.

The woman, aged 66, is disabled. She was attacked at her bungalow at Ras Kitau, on the northern resort island of Manda.

As the gang made their escape to Somalia by sea they were chased for several hours by two Kenyan coastguard ships.

Kenyan officials said some of the kidnappers had been injured in an exchange of fire with the coastguards.

The Kenyan government blamed the incident on Al-Shabaab militants and believe the French woman is now being held in the Somalian town of Ras Kamboni.

The kidnap comes just three weeks after a British couple were attacked further north in Kenya. Gunmen shot dead David Tebbutt, 58, and kidnapped his wife, Judith, 56, in the exclusive resort of Kiwayu. Mrs Tebbutt was taken across the border to Somalia and is still being held captive.

A Kenyan government statement said: "At 03:30, an elderly, disabled French lady who has been living in Manda Island in her own house was abducted by 10 heavily armed Somali bandits suspected to be Al-Shabaab operatives from Ras Kamboni in Somalia, near the Kenyan border."

Witnesses say they heard at least two gunshots before the woman was taken away by the attackers. "Armed people came into Manda by boat in the middle of the night. The elderly French woman is well known in the area, she comes to Manda regularly," Abu Chiaba, a local politician said.

Ambrose Munyasia, a police official, said he understood that the French government would be joining the hunt for the missing woman and was optimistic she would be rescued.

In a message to Kenyans, the government said that "adequate security measures" had been put in place.

France yesterday warned people to stay away from the area and the British Foreign Office extended an existing alert. It said: "We advise against all but essential travel to coastal areas within 150 kilometres from the Somali border." The Foreign Office warned that accommodation around beaches in Lamu and sail boats in the area were "vulnerable".

Pirates once focused on ships at sea, but in recent years have also attacked private yachts, capturing Europeans or Americans.