Somali gunmen free Zimbabwean hostage

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Somali gunmen who last week abducted a Zimbabwean working for British charity Save the Children released him early Wednesday, the hostage told AFP.

"I am well and free .... and traveling back to Adado," Frans Barnard said on telephone, referring to the town where he was seized Thursday along with his Somali fixer, who was freed unharmed the day after their capture.

Local elders involved in negotiations leading to his release said the kidnappers were paid 100,000 dollars.

"The hostage finally got his freedom around 5:00 am local time, he was freed after elders negotiated," Mohamed Abdulahi, an elder said.

"The gunmen asked for 150,000 dollars to free the hostage but they were only paid one hundred thousand," one of the negotiators said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The hostage was initially reported to have dual Zimbabwean-British nationality but this has not been confirmed.

Somalia has not had a central authority since plunging into a civil war in 1991 and has since been largely governed by rival armed groups.

Gangs thriving on the lawlessness have often kidnapped foreign aid workers, forcing many humanitarian groups to pull out foreign staff.

The radical Islamic Shebab militia have banned operations of several relief organisations in regions they control.

© 2010 AFP

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