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Canadian aid workers kidnapped in Kenya rescued by militia group in Somalia

Released foreign aid workers from the Norweigan Refugee Council (NRC) wave upon arriving at the Wilson airport aboard a Kenya Air Force helicopter Monday. From left to right, Steven Dennis, 37, of Canada, Qurat-Ul-Ain Sadazai, 38, of Canada, Astrid Sehl, 33, of Norway, and Glenn Costes, 40, of the Philippines. THOMAS MUKOYA/REUTERS. Get Somali news around the world at

NAIROBI — Four aid workers kidnapped at gunpoint from Kenya’s largest refugee camp arrived back in Kenya’s capital aboard a military helicopter on Monday after a pro-government Somali militia group rescued the four inside Somalia.

The four workers from the Norwegian Refugee Council smiled and waved after landing in Nairobi.

“We are happy. We are back. We are alive and we are happy this has ended,” said Qurat-Ul-Ain Sadazai, 38, a Canadian citizen among the rescued abductees.

The Norwegian Refugee Council, where the four work, confirmed in a statement today that two of the released workers are Canadian citizens Steven Dennis, 37, and Sadazai.

The other two hostages were Glenn Costes from the Philippines and Astrid Sehl from Norway.

Kenyan army spokesperson Cyrus Oguna told reporters here that one of the hostages had been shot in the leg.

“They are exhausted, they have walked far and have blisters . . . but otherwise in good health,” Oguna said.

Gunmen abducted the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) staff—two Canadians and aid workers from Norway and Philippines—Friday near the organization’s compound.

A Kenyan driver was killed in the attack and two other local employees wounded.

Sadazai was an experienced aid worker both in Kenya and Pakistan. She is based here with her husband and was on a day trip to Dadaab with some of the other high-level delegates.

NRC spokesperson Eric Christopherson confirmed their release but would provide few details. When asked about their conditions in a telephone interview he said, “Alive. Not seriously injured.”

“We are happy and relieved that our employees have been found and have been freed,” Elisabeth Rasmusson, the aid group’s secretary general, told a news conference in Oslo, the Norwegian capital. “What we know right now is that they have been released and are in good condition.”

Abdinasir Serar, a representative with the pro-government Ras Kamboni militia in Somalia, the Associated Press his group heard of Friday’s kidnapping in Kenya’s Dadaab refugee camp and pursued the kidnappers. Ras Kamboni fighters caught up with the kidnappers Monday morning about 60 kilometres (35 miles) inside Somalia.

Ras Kamboni’s leader, Ahmed Madobe, said his men killed one of the kidnappers but that the other three escaped. The rescue happened in the village of Alu Gulay.

The four rescued workers were taken to the Somali town of Dhobley and were then flown to Nairobi. Ras Kamboni works alongside Somali government and Kenyan military forces. Kenya sent troops to Somalia last October to hunt al-Shabab militants.

It was an unusually quick ending for kidnappings in Somalia that often last for months. Two Spanish workers with Medecins Sans Frontier were taken from Dadaab in October and remain missing.

Al Shabab, the Somalia-based group that merged with Al Qaeda earlier this year, was suspected in the abduction, although some analysts believe bandits looking for large ransoms snatched the foreign workers.

Security at Dadaab and throughout various areas in Kenya including the capital has been a concern since Kenyan forces entered Somalia in October.

Somalia’s Ambassador to Kenya, Mohammed Ali Nur, said talks have been ongoing with Kenyan authorities to increase security at the camp which houses more than 460,000 Somali refugees.

“We’re here as guests of the government and they assured us they’ll send more troops,” he said in a Monday interview.

“We’ve also talked to Somalis refugee themselves and asked them to work closely with Kenyan authorities and if they see people trying to come in armed they should tell the authorities so they can be stopped.”

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Kismaayodaily On July - 2 - 2012

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