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Somali authorities say local forces pursue aid worker captors

Thursday, July 12, 2012

MOGADISHU, July 12 (Xinhua) -- Authorities in northeastern Somalia's semi-autonomous state of Puntland on Thursday said local security forces were pursuing kidnappers of three foreign aid workers in Somalia, a government statement said.

Heavily armed gunmen attacked the aid workers from Kenya on Wednesday as they were traveling to a field assessment to towns and villages in Mudug Region, in central Somalia.

"Puntland security forces have been pursuing the kidnappers since Wednesday evening, covering a distance of over 200 km of unpaved roads," said the Puntland government statement.

Officials said the attackers who numbered 14 men were driving three vehicles during the launch of the attack on the aid workers and locals accompanying them.

Three aid workers are with the Sweden-based humanitarian agency International Aid Service (IAS) which specializes in water projects, officials said.

Four locals accompanying the foreign aid workers, including two security guards were injured during the ambush and exchange of gunfire. The wounded are being treated for their injuries at the health centre in Galkayo, according to local authorities.

Puntland government said its intelligence service reported that the kidnappers have escaped towards Hobyo district, outside of Puntland jurisdiction.

Local officials added that "sources" have also confirmed that Al-Shabaab-linked militants have supplied the kidnappers with fuel and escorted them towards Hobyo coastal town.

Authorities said local communities mobilized and resisted the kidnappers. An exchange of gunfire reportedly erupted between the kidnappers and local militia.


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