Wednesday 18 July 2018

Armed gang abduct female staffer from Red Cross compound in Somalia

File picture of an armed guard iin Mogadishu, Somalia (Lewis Whyld/PA)
File picture of an armed guard iin Mogadishu, Somalia (Lewis Whyld/PA)

Abdi Guled

Armed gunmen have stormed into the International Committee of the Red Cross compound in Somalia's capital and abducted a female staffer, the aid group said.

A senior police official said the nurse was German.

The kidnapping in Mogadishu was the latest in a series of targeted attacks on aid workers in the long-chaotic Horn of Africa nation.

It came a day after a Somali employee with the World Health Organisation was shot to death by two men who approached her in a busy market in the capital.

The German woman was abducted despite the presence of several security guards, police Captain Mohamed Hussein told The Associated Press. He said the guards had been arrested.

"We are deeply concerned about the safety of our colleague," Daniel O'Malley, the deputy head of the Red Cross delegation in Somalia, said in a statement.

"She is a nurse who was working every day to save lives and improve the health of some of Somalia's most vulnerable people."

The statement said the Red Cross was in contact with "various authorities" to try to secure the woman's release.

In late March, a local Red Cross staffer died of his injuries after a bomb attached to his vehicle exploded near the organisation's office in Mogadishu. Another staffer was wounded. The Somalia-based extremist group al-Shabab, which is linked to al Qaida, claimed responsibility.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for Wednesday night's attack.

The targeting of aid workers has sent shockwaves through the aid community in Somalia, which is one of the world's most dangerous places for humanitarian groups.

Many have died in bombings by al-Shabab extremists, who continue to control large parts of rural Somalia and often attack the capital.

At least 30 aid workers were killed in 2016 and 2017, the United Nations has reported.

Violence against aid workers went up sharply last year, including the abductions of more than 30 humanitarian staffers, in part because of scaled-up relief operations during a severe drought.

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