, NAIROBI, Kenya, March 28 – Somali gunmen on Saturday freed five Kenyans abducted this week after they crossed into the lawless Horn of Africa country, police said.
Police spokesman Eric Kiraithe said the five education ministry officials were released on Saturday afternoon after negotiations and no ransom was paid.
"It is confirmed that the hostages were released and all of them are safe," Kiraithe said.
The gunmen had detained the hostages, snatched on Wednesday, in a village in southern Somalia. The kidnappers had demanded an unspecified ransom.
North Eastern Provincial Commissioner Kiritu Wamae led the Kenyan delegation to the negotiations at Bula Hawo town, a kilometre away from the border town of Mandera. He did not give any details on the negotiations.
The Parliamentary Committee on Security on Friday called for the unconditional release of the Kenyans and opposed payment of ransom.
Those who had been abducted include; Wajir South District Education Officer Moses Mwangi, North Eastern Provincial Education Quality Assurance Officer Onchiri Onyancha, District Education Quality Assurance Officer North Eastern Province Charles Nyakundi, Early Childhood Education Officer Wajir South District Abdullahi Madey and a driver with the Ministry of Education North Eastern Province Abdikadir Ali.
The militiamen claimed they "arrested" the officials after they crossed the border into Somalia "without permission".
The officials had apparently gone shopping at the border town on the Somali side after attending the provincial primary school ball games tournament in Mandera town.
The militants had initially refused to negotiate with Kenya and had referred the officials to their ‘bosses’ in Mogadishu.
Kidnappings of foreigners for ransom are common in Somalia, which has been stricken by instability and civil conflict since 1991.
Most of southern Somalia is ruled by the hardline Islamist group Shebab and its allies. The group recently warned Kenya to refrain from interfering in Somali affairs or face attacks on its own soil.
Kenya has repeatedly expressed concern that the rise of a hardline Islamist administration in the southern port city of Kismayo and surrounding areas will have negative repercussions on security within its borders.