NAIROBI, (Reuters) – Somali gunmen released three foreign aid workers on Saturday who were kidnapped in July in northern Kenya in a cross-border raid, residents and a rebel official said.
“They have just been released and taken to Nairobi,” Sheikh Abdirisak, an official with insurgent group Hizbul Islam, told Reuters by phone from Luq in southwestern Somalia. He said militiamen came to Luq several days ago and asked to use the airstrip. “The administration accepted their proposal and worked the security of the deal,” he said.
It was not clear whether a ransom had been paid for the release of the aid workers, taken from Kenya’s remote Mandera province that borders Somalia and Ethiopia.
Cross-border raids are fairly common in the region, but usually involve cattle rustlers or gangs of robbers preying on business people in both countries. Ill-funded Kenyan security forces can do little to police the vast, impoverished area.
The aid organisation involved asked at the time of the kidnappings that its name and the nationalities of the hostages not be released.
“I have seen with my own eyes those three aid workers being put on a plane heading to Kenya this morning,” said Mohamed Ahmed, a member of a militia loyal to Hizbul Islam in Luq.
Luq resident Ahmed Igal said the same.