Cuba’s communist regime denied reports on Thursday that two of its slave doctors captured by the Islamic terror group Al-Shabaab are free following reports across international media that they had been released.
The two doctors, Assel Herrera Correa and Landy Rodríguez Hernández were kidnapped during a road ambush by Al-Shabaab jihadists in Mandera, Kenya, in April last year, several miles north of the capital Nairobi and near the Somali border.
Since their capture, Havana claims to have been in regular contact with both the Kenyan and Somali governments in the hope of securing their return, given that the Islamist group operates mainly in those two countries.
Reports of the two doctors’ release circulated on Wednesday on social networks and news agencies such as the Associated Press. However, all relevant parties dismissed the reports.
“I deny the information circulated at dawn today about the alleged release of the two kidnapped Cuban doctors, Assel Herrera Correa and Landy Rodríguez Hernández,” Juan Antonio Fernández Palacios, Cuba’s General Director of Press and Communication for the Foreign Ministry, said on Twitter. “Huge efforts continue to be made to ensure the liberation and safe return to the Homeland.”
Somalia’s acting foreign minister, Ahmed Isse Awad, also warned that reports of “the release of Cuban doctors held hostage in Somalia [are] not true and it is fabricated.”
The Kenyan government admitted it remained in the dark about the reports and unaware of the doctors’ whereabouts.
“We have not received any news about the release of the Cuban doctors,” government Spokesperson Col (Rtd) Cyrus Oguna said.
Both Herrera, a general practitioner, and Landy Rodriguez, a surgeon, were working as part of Cuba’s slave doctor program, whereby the communist regime sells medical services to allied countries for billions of dollars; the doctors do not receive the vast majority of their salaries.
Although the exact motive for al-Shabaab’s kidnapping is not yet clear, the Daily Nation reported in April that the group was ramping up its kidnappings as a way of “beefing up its pool of professionals and gathering intelligence.”
“We have information that Al-Shabaab is interested in abducting medical officers and teachers to be used in areas under their control in Somalia,” a senior security officer in Mandera told the newspaper at the time.