Kidnapped Briton likely in Somali village: witnesses

18th September 2011, Comments 0 comments

A British woman abducted from a Kenyan beach resort last week has reportedly been transferred to a village near Somalia's northern town of Harardhere, residents said Sunday.

Local elders in Amara village near the Islamist-controlled Harardhere town said Judith Tebbutt's kidnappers brought her to the village by sea and transferred her onto land.

"We are getting information indicating that a female Western hostage was brought close to Amara village. The kidnappers took her on land after bringing her by boat," said Mohamed Isa, an elder.

Another elder, Abdikarin Dahir, also said villagers spotted the British woman, who was abducted last weekend from Kiwayu Safari Village in the remote region of the northern Kenyan coast by gunmen, who also shot her husband dead.

"I think the kidnappers are pirates because they brought the British hostage near Harardhere where residents have spotted her today," Dahir said.

Pirate leader Abdi Yare also said Tebbutt had likely been brought near Harardhere.

"Im not sure if those holding the hostage are pirates but there are strong reports indicating that the woman is now on the ground near Harardhere," Yare told AFP.

Kenyan security forces launched a huge manhunt after the attack on Tebutt and her husband David, but found no trace of the abducted woman, raising fears she had been taken to lawless Somalia.

Police have arrested two people for questioning.

The Tebbutts, from the town of Bishop's Stortford in southeastern England, were the only guests at the Kiwayu Safari Village, which is just 40 kilometres (25 miles) from the Somali border.

Most of southern Somalia is controlled by the Al-Qaeda-inspired Shebab, which is waging an insurgency against Somalia's fragile, Western-backed government.

Shebab officials in southern Somalia last week declined to comment on the kidnap.

The Islamists last May took control of Harardhere, once a notorious pirate hideout, and vowed to end piracy.

British Prime Minister David Cameron on Wednesday pledged to do everything possible to help find the abducted British woman.

Somali gunmen have in the past crossed into Kenya and kidnapped foreigners. Three aid workers were abducted in 2009 and two Western nuns seized the previous year.

A Briton kidnapped in southern Somalia in 2008, the environmental researcher Murray Watson, is either still in captivity or presumed dead.

Somalia has been lawless for two decades after plunging into a bloody civil war with the 1991 ouster of president Mohamed Siad Barre.

Somali pirates frequently seize crew from merchant ships and pleasure craft in the dangerous waters off the conflict-ravaged Horn of Africa and have taken millions of dollars in ransom for their release.

According to the monitoring group Ecoterra, at least 50 vessels and at least 528 hostages are being held by Somali pirates, despite constant patrols by warships from several world powers.

© 2011 AFP

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