, MOGADISHU, Oct 27 – Two foreign aid workers kidnapped in central Somalia two days ago are being held hostage for ransom by a pirate gang, elders said Thursday.
An American woman and a Danish man working for the Danish Demining Group in Galkayo are now reported to be held in a village in the coastal Hobyo district, a notorious pirate den.
“The hostages are in the hands of pirates near Dabagalo village,” said Mohamed Jama, an elder in Hobyo.
“We are getting reports that the pirates want to move the hostages from the area, but they are having trouble because airplanes are flying over the area.”
A Somali colleague seized at the same time was released and is being questioned by police, according to local sources.
The kidnaps on Tuesday were the latest in a string of abductions by armed gangs from the war-torn nation, one of the world’s most dangerous regions for aid workers.
“Some people who saw the hostages told us that they are fine now, they are being held by a dozen men not far away from Hobyo,” said Abdikadir Hussein, another elder.
Security officials in the self-declared independent state of Galmudug said they have arrested several people in connection with the incident.
“The security forces are still tracing the kidnapers, who we believe are hiding near Hobyo,” said Ahmed Sahal, a security official in Galkayo.
“Four suspects with a car have been arrested so far, and are being questioned by the security forces,” he added.
A lack of effective central government since Somalia plunged into civil war two decades ago has allowed a flourishing of militias, Islamist insurgents and pirate gangs ruling mini-fiefdoms.