Somali gunmen releases abducted UN workers (Lead)

June 29th, 2008 - 1:06 am ICT by IANS  

Nairobi/Mogadishu/Copenhagen, June 28 (DPA) Two kidnapped Scandinavian workers for the UN mine action programme were released the same day they were taken by Somali gunmen, the Danish foreign ministry reported in Copenhagen Saturday. Both men were unharmed and were to be flown out of the country to Kenyan capital Nairobi.

No information was available about the Somali aid worker who was also reportedly taken with the two Scandinavians.

Many aid workers have been abducted since the man believed to be Al Qaeda’s top operative in the country, Aden Hashi Ayro, was killed in a US air strike May 1.

The head of the UN refugee agency UNHCR’s Mogadishu programme was kidnapped last weekend and is still being held.

Several other aid workers have been in the hands of gunmen for months and the World Food Programme has seen three of its drivers killed.

Ayro was the leader of Islamic militant group al-Shabaab, the armed wing of the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC). Al-Shabaab said it would target foreign troops and workers in revenge.

Militants have been waging a guerrilla war against government troops since the UIC was ousted from power at the beginning of 2007 with Ethiopian assistance.

The interim government has been unable to achieve stability in the Horn of Africa country that has been plagued by chaos and civil war since the ouster of dictator Mohamed Siad Barre 1991.

A peace deal was agreed between moderate Islamists and the government in early June, but al-Shabaab has not signed the agreement and has vowed to keep fighting until Ethiopian troops leave the country.

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