Sunday 22 April 2018

Kenya kidnap woman being held as human shield

Andy Bloxham

Investigators hunting the kidnapped British tourist Judith Tebbutt were last night considering claims that Islamist extremists were planning to use her as a human shield.

A Somalian group called Ras Kamboni, with links to Al Qaeda, reportedly claimed she was being held to deter further attacks after a US drone bombed their base 11 days ago, killing dozens of suspected terrorists.

The Islamists also threatened to demonstrate their captive as a trophy at a press conference, it was reported.

It is understood that the group is formed from members of the Ras Kamboni Brigades, an insurgent group which has been active for about four years and is now part of the 17,000-strong Al Shabaab fundamentalist organisation.

The reports are contrary to other claims about who is responsible for the high-profile kidnapping.

A senior official from Al Shabaab told a reporter from the Reuters news agency: "Al Shabaab has not abducted any Briton from Kenya. We believe bandits carried out the attack."

Mrs Tebbutt, who was kidnapped from her exclusive Kenyan lodge, is being held on an island in southern Somalia by armed pirates who are expected to issue a ransom demand within days, The Daily Telegraph disclosed yesterday.

The 56-year-old social worker, whose husband David was shot dead by the gang during a raid on their beach hut on Saturday night, is understood to be unhurt and being held by a gang made up of Kenyan and Somali pirates.

A team of Metropolitan Police officers have travelled to Kenya to assist the authorities there with the investigation.

Shebwana Bwana, a Kenyan village chief, who spoke to a member of the hotel staff, revealed details of how the attack unfolded.

He explained that the eight-strong gang – two Somalis and six Kenyans – set off under the cover of darkness and travelled to the village of Rubu, just north of the Kiwayu Safari lodge.

Mr Bwana said they then forced a resort guard at gunpoint to reveal which beach huts were occupied.

The gang then attempted to kidnap the couple, who had only just arrived at the secluded resort several hours earlier, shooting Mr Tebbutt in the head when he tried to resist.

Mr Bwana said the gang were extremely ruthless, but were only interested in money.

He said: “The gang even tried to shoot the guard so that he should not tell people the news. But as the gang boarded the boat he ran away. They fired on him but he managed to escape.”

Mr Bwana said: “These are the same people who are attacking ships and who say we’re not releasing them until you bring us money. I think they will not hurt her. They just want money.”

A local man was was being questioned by police in relation to the attack, amid fears that a worker at the Kiwayu Safari lodge may have tipped off the gang.

Last night it also emerged that Mr Tebbutt, 57, a finance director at the publishers Faber & Faber, was considering retiring from his job in the near future.

A former neighbour said: “David and Jude used to send us a letter every year to tell us all their news. It usually arrived around about Christmas time but this year it was a bit late and came in April. In it they said David was thinking about retiring in a couple of years and they said how much he was looking forward to that. It is all so sad.”

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