Red Cross says female staffer abducted in Somali capital

Red Cross says female staffer 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.

She 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 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.”

“We call for her immediate and unconditional release,” he added. The Red Cross said it was in contact with “various authorities” to try to secure the woman’s release.

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, which is linked to al-Qaida, claimed responsibility.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for Wednesday night’s attack.

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-Shabab extremists, who continue to control large parts of rural Somalia and often attack the capital.

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.