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28 February 2024

German aid worker freed one day after kidnapping in northern Somalia

By Agencies

Forces in northern Somalia freed a German aid worker overnight from gunmen who had abducted him hours before, officials said Wednesday.


Troops of the breakaway region of Somaliland had been pursuing the kidnappers since Tuesday’s abduction and launched a rescue operation before dawn, said Somaliland’s domestic affairs minister, Abdullahi Ismail Irro.


The aid worker was unharmed; two of the kidnappers were wounded, he said.


“We had decided to use force for the release of the aid worker, regardless of his safety, because any negotiations with such criminals could encourage” kidnappings, Irro said.


The German, an employee of German relief group Agro Action, was pulled from his car on Tuesday in northern Somalia as his bodyguards exchanged fire with the attackers, according to local officials and the aid group. His driver was injured in the exchange of fire, Agro Action had said.


The area he was travelling through is claimed by both the semi-autonomous region of Puntland and by Somaliland.


Agro Action issued a statement saying its officials had talked to the worker, Daniel Bronkal, and that he had not been mistreated. By the group’s account, Bronkal was freed at about 10pm on Tuesday night by Somali security forces and then fled on foot until he found local employees of Agro Action.


Agro Action, also known as Welthungerhilfe, said Bronkal was intercepted while driving from the town of Er Gabo, the provincial capital of Sanag region, to the coast, where he was to meet with fishermen. He had been working in the Horn of Africa region for nearly two years as part of a large food security project.


Two other aid workers - one German, one Somali - and a driver were not abducted, according to Agro Action.


A Spanish doctor and an Argentine nurse were seized in Somalia in December and held for a week. In December, a French cameraman was held for eight days after being seized near the capital of Puntland.


Last month, three foreign aid workers and a Somali were killed when their vehicle hit a land mine in the southern Somali town of Kismayo.


Somalia has not had a functioning government since 1991, when rival warlords overthrew dictator Mohamed Siad Barre and then turned on each other. The lawless Horn of Africa nation is impoverished, awash with weapons and divided between rival clans.


Northern Somalia has escaped much of the turmoil of southern Somalia. But Puntland is a staging post for human traffickers running boats into Yemen, and piracy has been rampant off its coast. In recent months, however, the US Navy has led international patrols to combat piracy in the region, cutting down on the pirates’ ability to rob merchant ships and vessels carrying aid - and perhaps leading some to seek hostages for ransom on land. (AP)