Somalia: Al-Shabaab kidnaps 4 aid workers
Four aid workers participating in a World Health Organisation (WHO) exercise were kidnapped in southern Somalia by suspected Al-Shabaab militants on Tuesday, according to police in the country.
The four workers, all of whom are Somalis, were abducted by militants in Gedo region while they were travelling near the town of Luuq, the unidentified officer revealed. The workers were part of a recently initiated exercise to administer polio vaccinations in the southern region.
Reasons for abduction unknown
“They were abducted on Tuesday near the town of Luuq by suspected Al-Shabaab militants while travelling in a car but the reason for the abduction is not clear,” the unnamed officer said.
He also said negotiations are underway to secure the release of the workers between local elders and members of the militant group. WHO’s Somalia branch later told VOA it believes the kidnapped individuals are not staff members of the organisation.
“We received reports of a security incident involving one or more members of the local community hired by local authorities for polio vaccination campaigns. According to our information, no WHO staff was involved in the incident,” WHO Somalia said in a written statement.
Difficult environment for aid workers
Before the kidnapping aid workers reportedly received death threats from Al-Shabaab, which continues to prevent polio vaccination exercises in the areas it controls. The group has also spread rumours that the vaccinations being administered cause sterility or contain the AIDS virus, according to VOA.
Containing polio in Somalia remains a challenge with the country largely split by government and Al-Shabaab control. Polio outbreaks persist in the Horn of Africa nations with an estimated 420,000 children in parts of the country controlled by Al-Shabaab yet to be vaccinated against the disease.
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