, NAIROBI, Jul 2 – Four foreign aid workers kidnapped in Kenya’s Dadaab refugee camp were released overnight in southern Somalia after a short gunfight, and were safe with the Kenyan army, officials said Monday.
“They are safe in our hands, they have been freed,” Kenyan army spokesman Cyrus Oguna told AFP, adding that the two men and two women seized on Friday were released after a joint operation of Kenyan and Somali troops.
“They were released in a joint force of Somali and Kenyan forces, during which one of the kidnappers was killed.”
The four aid workers, employed by the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), come from Canada, Norway, a dual national from Canada and Pakistan, and the Philippines.
One has a bullet wound to the leg but they are otherwise unharmed.
“They are exhausted, they have walked far and have blisters, and one of the aid workers was shot in the leg, but otherwise they are in good health,” Oguna said, adding they were now in the southern Somali border town of Dhobley.
“They are receiving medical attention at our base while they await transfer back to Kenya,” Oguna added.
Mohamed Dini Adan, the Somali military commander in Dhobley, said the army had stopped the “kidnappers who were trying to hide and sneak past the army.”
A Kenyan driver was killed and two others were wounded during Friday’s attack.
The kidnapping was the latest in a series of attacks in Dadaab, where gunmen last October seized two Spaniards working for Medecins sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders). They are still being held hostage in Somalia.
Kenya, which invaded southern Somalia in October to attack Al-Qaeda linked Islamist insurgents, has troops some 120 kilometres (75 miles) deep into Somalia. However, the forces control only pockets of the vast territory.
The aid workers’ vehicle, which the gunmen stole after killing the driver, was found abandoned a few hours after the attack.
NRC is working to support some 465,000 inhabitants in the Dadaab complex, which constitutes Kenya’s third-biggest town in terms of population.
The abduction of the Spaniards was one of the incidents that spurred Kenya to send troops and tanks into Somalia to fight the Shabaab insurgents Nairobi blames for abductions and for cross-border raids.
However, Kenya has also voiced concern that Dadaab too poses a security threat, and has blocked registration of new refugees to the camp.
The Shabaab still control large parts of southern Somalia, despite recent losses to African Union troops, government forces and Ethiopian soldiers, who have wrested several key bases from the insurgents.