, MOGADISHU, Jan 26 – Two aid workers – an American and a Dane – were freed by US special forces on Wednesday after three months in the captivity of pirates in Somalia.
Foreigners are often targeted in Somalia, with journalists and aid workers in the firing line of the hostage takers.
Foreign sailors have also been targeted by Somali pirates prowling in the Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden.
– April 1, 2008: British aid worker Murray Watson and a Kenyan colleague are abducted by armed men in southern Somalia. There have been no recent reports of their whereabouts and the pair are widely believed dead.
– July 14, 2009: A French agent from the DGSE foreign intelligence service, identified by the pseudonym Denis Allex, is held in Somalia by Islamist militants after he was kidnapped from his Mogadishu hotel.
– September 11, 2011: Gunmen seize British tourists David and Judith Tebbutt who are holidaying north of the idyllic Lamu archipelago in Kenya near the Somali border. David Tebbutt is killed fighting off the attackers, while his wife is believed to have been sold on to pirates in central Somalia.
– October 13, 2011: Blanca Thiebaut and Montserrat Serra, two Spanish aid workers for Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF, Doctors Without Borders), are kidnapped from eastern Kenya’s Dadaab refugee camp and taken to Somalia.
– January 21, 2012, Armed gang believed to be pirates kidnap American writer and journalist Michael Scott Moore in central Somalia.
– January 25, 2012: US special forces rescue an American Jessica Buchanan and Poul Thisted, a Dane, who worked for the Danish Refugee Council, held by a pirate gang, in a pre-dawn raid.
Pirates also hold hundreds of sailors, whose plight goes largely unnoticed, awaiting the payment of a ransom to release them and their vessels.
According to figures provided by Ecoterra International, an environmental and rights group monitoring regional maritime activity, pirates still hold more than 400 seamen hostage.
That includes a South African couple taken from their yacht in 2010 but most other hostages are the multi-national crews of hijacked merchant vessels.