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Gunmen kidnap two more aid workers

Somali gunmen kidnap another two aid workers in the latest attack on humanitarian workers in the Horn of Africa nation.
Reuters | By Abdi Mohamed and Ibrahim Mohamed, Mogadishu
UPDATED ON JUL 01, 2008 02:59 PM IST

Somali gunmen have kidnapped another two aid workers in the latest attack on humanitarian workers in the Horn of Africa nation, locals said on Tuesday.

About a dozen men with rifles stopped the Somali aid workers on their way to Mogadishu on Monday and turned their two cars into bush near Afgooye, west of the capital, witnesses said.

"I could see the two cars marked 'WFL' being hijacked," bus-driver Hassan Osman said.

Regional governor Abdiqadir Sheikh confirmed a Somali man and a woman - whom he identified as working for a foreign charity - Water For Life - went missing as they were travelling to Mogadishu.

"They are nowhere to be found now ... they must have been kidnapped," he told Reuters.

Suspicion for kidnappings generally falls on clan militia and Islamist insurgents who are fighting the Somali government and their Ethiopian military allies.

Gunmen are still holding hostage four foreign aid workers - two Italians, a Kenyan, a Briton - and another three Somalis abducted in April and May.

Two U.N. workers from Sweden and Denmark were briefly taken on Saturday in south Somalia, until local elders and colleagues negotiates their release with Islamists.

Mired in anarchy and awash with weapons since the 1991 overthrow of dictator Mohamed Siad Barre, south Somalia is off-limits for all but a small band of foreign aid workers, and local staff face extreme risks by association.

Sheikh, the Lower Shabelle region governor, said the kidnapped Somali pair had been due to fly to Italy on Tuesday.

Kidnapping is lucrative business in Somalia, with hostages generally treated well in anticipation of a large ransom. But the attacks are hampering the operations of aid agencies at a time when U.N. officials say Somalia ranks as one of the world's worst humanitarian crises along with Sudan's Darfur region, Congo, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Over 1 million of Somalia's 9 million people live as internal refugees, and their plight has been worsened by record food prices, hyper-inflation and drought.

The insurgency has killed 2,136 civilians so far this year, bringing the death-toll since it began in early 2007 to 8,636, according to a local human rights group.

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