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Kidnapped British aid group worker freed in Somalia

By on October 20, 2010

A British contractor kidnapped in Somalia last week while working for the Save the Children aid group has been freed after negotiations with his captors, local officials said on Wednesday.

Regional officials in central Somalia said Frans Barnard, a Nairobi-based security consultant, was freed late on Tuesday about 250 km (150 miles) from the town of Adado where he was abducted last Thursday.

Mohamed Mohamud, an official with the Himan and Heb regional administration, said Barnard would be handed over to the aid group. “They (the kidnappers) have freed the man … and he is now in the hands of our administration. The man is in good health and happy,” he told Reuters. “His agency will take him away and we are happy with his release.”

Within Somalia the capture of foreign nationals has become relatively rare because nearly all aid agencies have barred expatriate workers from operating there after hardline Islamist militants gained control of more territory.

Mohamud said Barnard’s release came after talks between local elders and clan militia fighters. “No ransom was paid. His release happened through negotiations,” Mohamud said.

Britain’s Foreign Office said it was aware of the reports, which it was trying to verify.

Save the Children had been assessing the feasibility of starting up a humanitarian programme to help malnourished and sick children in the area around Adado, which lies close to the Ethiopian border, when Barnard was seized.

“The British man who was abducted in Somalia is now on his way to a place of safety. Until he is there we continue to be concerned for him, but at this point we are cautiously optimistic,” said Anna Ford, Save the Children’s spokeswoman in Nairobi.

Kidnapping for ransoms has become a major money-spinner in lawless Somalia, notably among the pirate gangs that plague the Gulf of Aden, one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes.

Somali pirates are still holding hostage a retired British couple, Paul and Rachel Chandler, who were kidnapped from their yacht off Seychelles a year ago.

Adado, the capital of the Himan and Heb region, is considered more stable than much of the lawless Horn of Africa nation where Islamist rebels are fighting to topple the Western-supported administration.

Reuters.

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