Somali and Kenyan troops rescued four foreign aid workers held hostage inside Somalia, three days after they were seized from a refugee camp in neighbouring Kenya, the armies said on Monday.
“We are happy to be alive, we are happy this has ended,” said Canadian-Pakistan national Qurat-ul-Ain Sadazai as she and colleagues from Canada, Norway and the Philippines arrived in Nairobi.
The two men and two women with the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) looked exhausted and were covered in dust after their three day ordeal, but managed a weary smile to reporters before they boarded buses and left the airport.
NRC said in a statement it was “relieved and pleased” at their release, naming them respectively as Steven Dennis, 37, Astrid Sehl, 33, Glenn Costes, 40 and Sadazai, 38.
Costes limped from a bullet wound to the leg, but the four appeared to be otherwise in good health after arriving from the southern Somali border town of Dhobley, where they been freed earlier on Monday.
Friday’s attack at the Dadaab refugee camp was the first abduction of foreigners from Kenya since the east African country sent troops into Somalia in October to crush al Shabaab, an al Qaeda-linked militant group.
A Kenyan driver was also shot dead during the kidnapping.
Colonel Abduallahi Moalim said Somali government soldiers in the Lower Juber region that borders Kenya stopped a vehicle carrying supplies for the attackers on Sunday.
The army seized three of the occupants who directed the force to the hostages, he said. They were being held near the border between the towns of Diff and Dhobley.
“Our forces have rescued the four aid workers kidnapped from Kenya in an overnight rescue operation,” Moalim told Reuters.
“They are healthy and unhurt,” he said.
Colonel Cyrus Oguna, spokesman for Kenya’s military, said the two forces launched a joint operation after receiving intelligence as to the hostages’ whereabouts.
“We have them in our hands right now. They are receiving medical attention. They are exhausted,” he told Reuters. “There was also a gunfight during the rescue and one gunman was killed and two escaped.”
Dadaab, about 100 km from Somalia, was set up in 1991 to house Somalis fleeing violence in their country. It has since become the world’s biggest refugee camp with almost 500,000 residents.
Besides the kidnappings, the sprawling camp has also been hit by a series of roadside bomb and grenade attacks which the Kenyan security forces have blamed on al Shabaab sympathisers.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 3rd, 2012.
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