UN aid worker kidnapped in Somalia

2010-07-18 21:22

Mogadishu - Gunmen in Somalia kidnapped a local employee with UN demining agency Mine Action on Sunday, officials and relatives said.

Said Moalim Bashir, a public liaison officer for the agency, was captured while travelling to Mogadishu from Teredishe, a densely populated area outside the capital where thousands of displaced families live, they said.

"We got the information regarding his kidnap on Sunday after his driver who was apparently held with him was released," a local Mine Action official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

"We don't know his whereabouts but we have confirmed he was taken hostage by gunmen," the official said.

Somalia's Islamist Shabaab insurgents banned the operations of Mine Action in southern Somalia in December 2009, accusing the organisation of disturbing peace and justice in the country.

Unknown hooded gunmen stopped Bashir's car near a camp for displaced persons and later released his driver, a relative told AFP.

"They intercepted his car and forced the driver to turn the vehicle from its direction, taking Bashir with them, and no one knows his fate so far," relative Abdukar Mohamed told AFP.

"The kidnappers did not make any contact yet and they switched his phone off. We are very worried about his situation," he said.

Kidnappings, including of foreign nationals, is rampant in Somalia, a Horn of Africa country ravaged by cycles of devastating violence and lawlessness and struggling to resist a push by Islamist insurgents.