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Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Still no sign of kidnapped aid workers

Norwegian Refugee Council officials claimed they were doing all they could to search for four aid workers who were kidnapped on Friday when their convoy was attacked by armed men outside the Dadaab refugee camp in eastern Kenya. One of the council’s drivers was shot and killed and three council workers were wounded.

Elisabeth Rasmusson, secretary general of the Norwegian Refugee Council, witnessed the attack on aid workers in Kenya. PHOTO: Flyktninghjelpen

Elisabeth Rasmusson, secretary general of the council (Flyktninghjelpen), was riding in the convoy herself and witnessed the attack. She candidly told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) Sunday night that she fled the scene, fearing for her life.

“I saw the kidnappers,” Rasmusson told NRK. “As far as I could see, there were four of them. They were armed with pistols. The stopped us, and threatened everyone. They managed to take a car (with Norwegian Refugee Council staff sitting inside) and disappear with them.”

Lacked armed guards
Both she and and another council official denied they had broken any security regulations, by opting against having armed guards attached to the convoy. Rasmusson said the presence of armed guards can make such situations worse.

“We are trained for these sorts of incidents, we know how to react,” Rasmusson claimed. She said the most important thing now was to find out what happened to her council colleagues, and assist their families. She returned to Norway on Sunday.

She refused to identify the four kidnapped aid workers or disclose their identities, but newspaper Aftenposten reported they are from Norway, Pakistan, Canada and the Philippines. Rasmusson and the communications officer for the refugee council, Rolf Vestvik, said the council was cooperating closely with Kenyan authorities and was pleased with the help and response they were getting.

Abductors unknown
The Dadaab refugee camp is deemed the largest in the world and located in Kenya near the border to Somalia. Hundreds of thousands of Somalians fled to the camp last year because of hunger and violence in Somalia. The Norwegian Refugee Council has been building housing at the camp, in an effort to replace tattered tents.

It remained unclear Sunday night who was behind the attacks and kidnapping, with speculation running from the Somalian-Islamic group Al-Shabab to local groups with economic motives. The camp has been the site of kidnappings of foreign aid workers before, by gangs demanding money. Rasmusson said no ransom demands had been made as of late Sunday.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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