Somali pirates kidnap foreigner at airport
Mogadishu - Pirates are behind the kidnapping of a foreign hostage in central Somalia, a local official said Sunday, with witnesses reporting he had been whisked off to an inaccessible base.
Gunmen snatched the man on Saturday on the airport road in Galkayo, a town near the border between the state of Galmudug and another self-proclaimed semi-autonomous province, Puntland, witnesses and officials said.
The victim's identity remains uncertain, while local authorities said he might have dual German and US nationality.
Three employees of the Danish Demining Group, an American, a Dane and a Somali, were kidnapped near Galkayo airport in October. The town was the scene of violent clashes between rival clans and political groups in September.
"We have learned that the kidnapping of the foreigner was carried out by pirates," said Abshir Dini Awale, an official in the Galmudug state cabinet, adding that people who provided him with security had helped in the abduction.
"We have sent security forces to trace them and they are still following them. We don't know how things will be in the end," Awale added.
However, witnesses near the port of Hobyo, a notorious pirate den to the east of Galkayo, said security forces gave up the chase after the pirates took the hostage to a forest base near the coast.
"There are around 50 heavily armed security forces who tried to stop the pirates after following them yesterday, but now the security forces have stopped tracking because the kidnappers entered the base of the pirates," said one witness, elder Muhidin Adan.
"The pirates have reached Hobyo now. I don't think they could be followed any more."
Another witness, Ali Mohamed, agreed, saying: "Now it will be very difficult to get hold of them, they have crossed the line and no one can follow them into the forest."
Of the three people seized in October, only the Somali has been freed. Elders in the region said in November that the two remaining hostages were reportedly being held for ransom in Hobyo district.
Somalia has been without an effective government for two decades.
It is one of the most dangerous places in the world for aid workers, where three regions - including parts of Mogadishu - have been declared a famine zone by the United Nations.