German staffer with Red Cross abducted in Somali capital

German staffer with Red Cross abducted in Somali capital
The Associated Press

MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) — Armed gunmen stormed into the International Committee of the Red Cross compound in Somalia’s capital and abducted a German nurse on its staff, the aid group said late Wednesday.

The kidnapping of the woman in Mogadishu was the latest in a series of targeted attacks on aid workers in the long-chaotic Horn of Africa nation. It came a day after a Somali employee with the World Health Organization was shot dead by two men who approached her in a busy market in the capital.

The nurse was abducted despite the presence of several security guards, police Capt. Mohamed Hussein told The Associated Press. He said the guards had been arrested.

“We believe that at the heart of this matter is a disgruntled former employee for ICRC who is behind the abduction,” Abdulaziz Hildhiban, spokesman for Somalia’s internal security ministry, said Thursday. He said the suspect is known and “the government is chasing their whereabouts.”

Witnesses described the chaotic attack. “I saw many gunmen coming and storming into the ICRC compound. We all became distraught and shortly after the attack the Somali Armed Forces cordoned off the entire area,” a watchman at the compound, Ahmed Isse, told the AP.

“We are deeply concerned about the safety of our colleague,” Daniel O’Malley, the deputy head of the Red Cross delegation in Somalia, said in a statement. “She is a nurse who was working every day to save lives and improve the health of some of Somalia’s most vulnerable people.”

O’Malley called for her “immediate and unconditional release.” The Red Cross said it was in contact with “various authorities” to try to secure the woman’s freedom.

The targeting of aid workers has sent shockwaves through the aid community in Somalia, which is one of the world’s most dangerous places for humanitarian groups. Many have died in bombings by al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab extremists, who continue to control large parts of rural Somalia and often attack the capital.

In late March, a local Red Cross staffer died of his injuries after a bomb attached to his vehicle exploded near the organization’s office in Mogadishu. Another staffer was wounded. The Somalia-based extremist group al-Shabab claimed responsibility.

At least 30 aid workers were killed in 2016 and 2017, the United Nations has reported. Violence against aid workers went up sharply last year, including the abductions of more than 30 humanitarian staffers, in part because of scaled-up relief operations during a severe drought.

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Associated Press video journalist Mohamed Sheikh Nor in Mogadishu contributed.

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