French journalist abducted in Somalia

17th December 2007, Comments 0 comments

An award-winning French journalist was abducted on Sunday by unknown kidnappers in Bosasso, northern Somalia

   MOGADISHU, December 16, 2007 - An award-winning French journalist was abducted Sunday by unknown kidnappers in Bosasso, northern Somalia, where he was reporting on illegal immigrants, government and humanitarian sources said.

   "I can tell you that he was abducted this morning at around 11:00 am (0800 GMT). The journalist arrived in Bosasso yesterday (Saturday)," a humanitarian worker told AFP, asking to remain anonymous.

   He said the journalist was a cameraman, Gwenlaoen Le Gouil, who was in Bosasso to do a report on the trafficking of illegal immigrants who risk their lives crossing the Gulf of Aden to reach Yemen.

   Puntlang government officials and elders mediators were pushing to secure the release of the journalists from the militia that has asked for a ransom of 70,000 dollars.

   "We have seen the journalist and he is doing well. He is around Shimbiro and Mararo area," about 15 kilometres (nine miles) east of Bosasso, said Abdihadir Ibrahim Haji, an elder close to mediators.

   "There are efforts underway to release the journalist. We hope that he will be released soon. The information we got indicates that he is well and healthy," added Abdulkadir Muhamoud Adne, Bosaso deputy mayor.

   "A translator with the journalist, Jama Hussein, has been released and brought information that they are asking for 70,000 dollars as ransom," said Awale Jama, who is working with the mediators.

   French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said the government was in contact with the suspected kidnappers.

   "As soon as we learned about it we alerted our services and contacted those who seem to be the kidnappers," Kouchner said in a French television interview.

   "I hope that the contact will not be lost and that it will not just be a demand for ransom," he said.

   "We are nevertheless totally mobilised to receive more information and follow developments in this situation so that our countryman can be freed as quickly as possible."

   Le Gouil was co-winner this year of the French journalism Albert Londres prize for a video report on the assassination of 17 humanitarian workers in  Sri Lanka.

   Bosasso is the economic capital of the semi-autonomous region of Puntland in northeast Somalia, which has been wracked by civil war since 1991.

   The port city is situated across from Yemen and has become the embarcation point for the trafficking of illegal immigrants seeking to escape the troubled Horn of Africa. The mafia-style operation generates some three million dollars each year, according to the Danish Refugee Council, a charity that operates in the region.

   On November 21, 64 would-be immigrants drowned off the shores of Yemen when their boat capsized.

   Journalists have frequently been subjected to verbal and physical threats in Bosasso, humanitarian organisations in Somalia and Kenya have said.

   In May, militiamen captured and Kenyan and Irish national working for CARE International in the same region.

   Puntland, which declared its semi-autonomous status in 1998, is relatively peaceful compared to Somalia proper.
Violence has defied numerous initiatives aimed at restoring peace and stability in the Horn of Africa nation since the 1991 ouster of former dictator Mohamed Siad Barre.


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