Briton from Save the Children abducted in Somalia

AP News
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Posted: Oct 15, 2010 11:05 AM
Briton from Save the Children abducted in Somalia

Masked gunmen abducted a Briton and a Somali working for aid agency Save the Children from a compound in western Somalia, the agency and a witness said Friday. The Somali was later released.

Local resident Moalim Bashir said he did not know who had taken the two men on Thursday evening from the town of Adado, near the border with Ethiopia.

He said tensions in the town were high as a militia was massing to the south and might attempt to try to take the town from those currently in control.

The Somali man was later released and communicated with his family, said an official who is working to resolve the incident. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

Several forces have gunmen in the area, including pirate gangs and factions of militias allied to the government. The area was considered to be a safer part of Somalia and some aid agencies, which have mostly pulled out of the chaotic country, were considering returning.

"Save the Children was assessing the feasibility of starting up a humanitarian program to help malnourished and sick children and their families in the area. We are extremely concerned about the welfare of those being held and urgently call upon whoever is holding them captive to release them unconditionally," Save the Children said in a statement.

The British Foreign Office said it was investigating the reports of the kidnap.

A friend of the kidnapped Briton described him as an avid skier and mountaineer who once lived in Canada and had worked for humanitarian organizations for several years.

Kidnapping for ransom is common in Somalia. The hostages are rarely hurt and people are usually freed after a ransom is paid.

The lawless Horn of Africa nation has not had a functioning government for nearly 20 years.