American kidnapped in Somalia

2012-01-22 10:44

Mogadishu - Gunmen kidnapped an American man in the northern Somali town of Galkayo on Saturday, officials said.

The gunmen surrounded the man's car shortly after the man left the airport, said policeman Abdi Hassan Nur, who witnessed the incident. He said they then forced the American into another vehicle.

Galkayo is on the border between the semiautonomous northern region of Puntland and a region known as Galmudug. It is ruled by forces friendly to the UN-backed Somali government.

A minister from the Galmudug administration said the kidnapped man is an American engineer who came to Somalia to carry out an evaluation for building a deep water port in the town of Hobyo. The gunmen severely beat the foreigner's Somali companion when he begged them not to take the man, said the minister.

The minister spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak to the press.

Kidnapping for ransom

A staff member at the Embassy Hotel, where the man was staying, said the American had gone to the airport to drop off an Indian colleague. The hotel said that the man had both American and German citizenship. The staff member asked not to be identified because he was not supposed to give out information about guests.

In October, gunmen kidnapped an American woman and a Danish man working for the Danish Demining Group from the same town. They are still being held.

Kidnapping for ransom is has become increasingly common in Somalia over the past five years. Currently at least four aid workers, a French military official, a British tourist taken from Kenya and hundreds of sailors are being held captive.

An airstrike killed six people near the insurgent stronghold of Kismayo on Saturday, according to Sheik Mohamud Abdi, a senior commander of the al-Shabab militant group. In another airstrike outside Mogadishu, a British-Lebanese commander of al-Shabab was killed along with two others when a missile struck the car they were traveling in, al-Shabab spokesperson Sheik Ali Rage said.

Rage identified the British-Lebanese commander as Bilal-Berjawi, saying he was a close associate of late al-Qaeda operative Fazul Abdullah Mohammed, the mastermind behind the 1998 bombings of the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania who was killed by a Somali soldier in June 2011.

Kenya sent troops into Somalia in October amid concerns that Somalia's 21-year-old civil war was spilling over the countries' joint border.

Read more on:    somalia  |  east africa

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