Monday 22 January 2018

Gunmen kidnap two aid workers from camp in Kenya

Mike Pflanz in Nairobi

Two female Spanish aid workers were kidnapped yesterday from the world's largest refugee camp, threatening relief efforts and raising fears that international staff treating Somali famine victims are now prime targets.

Gunmen believed to be from Somalia snatched the pair, who worked for Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), as they left a health centre in part of Kenya's Dadaab camp which has been flooded with new arrivals fleeing the war-torn country.

A cell from al-Shabaab, Somalia's Islamist jihadists, was immediately suspected of the attack, the first kidnap of Westerners from inside the camp's confines.

Kenyan police launched a land and air search for the two women, whose Kenyan driver was shot and wounded in the midday raid. By last night, however, it was feared they had already been taken across the border into Somalia, which lies less than 60 miles east of the refugee camp.


The attack could jeopardise aid work in the camp, now home to half a million Somalis fleeing famine and war.

"We are extremely concerned about this, and discussions on the next steps are ongoing," said Emmanuel Nyabera, spokesman for the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, which co-manages Dadaab.

"That may mean pulling some staff out, which is of course a last resort."

Foreign staff are already subject to security restrictions at Dadaab, including sunset-to-sunrise curfews.

Veteran humanitarian workers in Nairobi had warned that the camp was becoming increasingly militarised.

Unlike most charities, MSF moves without armed guards in almost every area of the world in which it operates.

"Kidnap has been the top risk in Dadaab for a long time," said one senior aid staffer in Nairobi. "It's not a surprise. But that this took place in the heart of the camp, that was a surprise."(© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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