Somalia

Influential Somalis join forces to resolve DDG kidnapping

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A group of influential Somalis have joined forces to push for the release of the two kidnapped aid workers from the Danish Refugee Council’s demining unit. Through concrete action and strong support the group will increase pressure on the kidnappers in order to ensure an unconditional and peaceful release.

The 11 member strong group in Adado, Central Somalia, is constituted by a broad representation of local politicians, elders and clan leaders from the area. The group is committed to act and pursue the release of the two employees with Danish Refugee Council’s demining unit, Danish Demining Group (DDG), who were kidnapped on 25 October as they were driving through Galkayo in Central Somalia.

“Support from Somali communities is crucial and key to resolving the kidnapping of Jessica and Poul. This new group and a similar group in Galkayo represents various clans, local communities and authorities in the part of Somalia Jessica and Poul are held captive. It is therefore of great importance that they are joining forces to help resolve the kidnapping,” says Ann Mary Olsen, head of the International Department with the Danish Refugee Council.

The group intents to coordinate efforts on local and regional level in Central Somalia, and more demonstrations are to be arranged. In addition, communities are requested to report on the kidnappers and raise awareness of the implications and negative consequences of the kidnapping of humanitarian aid workers.

32 year-old Jessica Buchanan and 60 year-old Poul Hagen Thisted were kidnapped as they were driving through Galkayo in Central Somalia. The two employees were on a field trip to monitor humanitarian aid activities in the region as they were abducted by a group of armed men.

“I have been told that there has again recently been contact with Poul and Jessica, and I am comforted by knowing that they are both doing well the dire circumstances taken into consideration,” says Ann Mary Olsen, who is thankful for the massive support by the Somali communities.

”Poul and Jessica are dedicated humanitarian aid workers, who have come to Somalia to help the suffering civilians. This is our clear message to the various groups we collaborate with to mobilize support in Central Somalia. The perpetrators have to know that kidnapping humanitarian aid workers is absolutely unacceptable and an obstacle to the humanitarian efforts. An unconditional release is a prerequisite for the continuance of international humanitarian efforts in this area.”

The Danish Refugee Council and the demining unit, DDG, have been providing emergency aid and assistance in Somalia since 1998. Daily meals are handed out in Mogadishu feeding more than 100,000 internally displaced people, protection and shelter is provided along with aid packages, livelihoods are improved in collaboration with Somali communities through agricultural development projects, and extensive efforts are made to improve community safety - not least through the removal of landmines and explosive remnants of war.

In consideration of the safety of the two kidnapped aid workers, the Danish Refugee Council cannot give more details or elaborate further on the current situation.

All media inquiries should be directed to the Danish Refugee Council in Copenhagen.