Somali kidnappers threaten to kill Dutch doctor
Somali kidnappers warn they will kill the Dutch and Belgian doctors if there were any armed attempt to rescue them.MOGADISHU – Somali gunmen holding two European doctors on Tuesday threatened to kill their hostages if any armed attempt to rescue them was made, local elders said.
A local aid worker also said the hostages, a Dutch national and a Belgian employed by the French aid group Medecins sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders - MSF), had refused the meals offered by their captors.
The latest setbacks in efforts by Somalia's hardline Islamist Shebab group and local elders to secure the pair's swift release came two days after their kidnapping in the western region of Hodur, near the Ethiopian border.
"The elders are still in tough negotiations with the kidnappers to free the hostages but they threatened to kill their hostages if there was any attempt to free them by force," local elder Adan Moalim Yusuf told AFP.
The kidnappers have demanded a ransom.
"We are getting information that the kidnappers warned against any attempt to forcefully release the hostages and said they would kill the aid workers if they are attacked," said a humanitarian official in the town of Rabdhure, near the location where the two doctors are detained.
"We have also been informed that the two European aid workers refused the local meals they were served and instead asked for nuts and water only," he told AFP on condition of anonymity.
Sheikh Mukhtar Robow, the main spokesman and one of the top military commanders for the Shebab group which controls the area, had said earlier Tuesday that his movement was engaged in talks to obtain their release.
"We are still making tireless efforts to succeed in releasing the aid workers without any pre-conditions," he told AFP.
Local elders who had led a mediation delegation on Monday were able to verify that the hostages were in good health but failed in their bid to secure a swift and unconditional release.
"We have started fresh efforts to convince the gunmen to free the hostages despite their insistence on financial demands," Hasan Mohamed, a Hodur elder, told AFP by phone.
According to local humanitarian sources, the hostages were moved twice over the past 24 hours, from the village of Laheley to that of Burduhunley and then back to the area of the kidnapping in Hodur.
Members of local militia said the kidnappers were from the same group that abducted four aid workers employed by the United Nations on 16 March in Wajid, a major UN aid hub located only 90 kilometres from Hodur.
The four were released hours after being snatched, following efforts by local elders and Shebab officials.
Officials had said that the kidnapping was likely motivated by resentment among some clans over perceived imbalance in UN recruitment for local jobs.
According to sources in Hodur, the group had been promised jobs and money to release the four but were subsequently dissatisfied with the deal and kidnapped the two MSF doctors to vent their anger.
Kidnappings of foreign aid workers and journalists by ransom-seeking armed groups happen frequently in conflict-wracked Somalia.
UN agencies attempting to deliver food aid to 3.25 million Somalis – nearly half the population – have been repeatedly targeted.
Four European aid workers employed by the French charity Action Contre la Faim (Action Against Hunger) and their two Kenyan pilots have been held hostage since November.
AFP / Expatica