Somalia: Govt denounces attacks on aid workers as abductions continue

News and Press Release
Originally published
NAIROBI, 2 July 2008 (IRIN) - The government and civil society groups condemned the continuing attacks against aid workers even as another five Somali aid workers were abducted.

"It seems there is a concerted campaign against aid workers and civil society. We don't know who is behind it or why," said a civil society source in Mogadishu, who requested anonymity.

He said the attacks on aid workers were a new phenomenon and accused all sides in the Somali conflict of involvement. He said that normally "only foreign aid workers were abducted for money. But now Somalis are being targeted and it is not just money. There is a political dimension to it."

He said this needed to be "publicly" condemned by all sides as the spate of attacks had created "a level of fear never seen before among aid workers and civil society, forcing many to curtail their work or abandon it altogether".

The latest abductions took place on 30 June as five Somalis, four of them working for the charity Water For Life (WFL), were ambushed on the road linking Afgoye to Mogadishu.

Hassan Mustafa, another WFL employee, told IRIN on 2 July that the abducted group, which included WFL team leader Fadumo Hajiyow, was stopped by unknown gunmen and taken to an undisclosed location.

"We don't know who took them, where they took them or why," he said. WFL had not been contacted and "we don't know why it was targeted".

This was also the first kidnapping of a Somali woman aid worker, according to the civil society source. "No one, Somali, non-Somali, woman or man, is safe any more."

On 21 June, the head of the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) in Mogadishu, Hassan Mohamed Ali, better known as "Keynaan",[] was abducted from his home by unknown armed men. On 22 June, a peace activist was killed in Beletweyne town in Hiiraan region, central Somalia. Mohamed Hassan Kulmiye, who was working at the Centre for Research and Development (CRD), a local think-tank involved in peace initiatives, was shot by unidentified gunmen.

A few days earlier, an employee of CARE International, whose name the agency declined to reveal, was abducted near El-Dheer town in Galgadud region. He was the second CARE staff member to be abducted in six weeks.

Abdi Haji Gobdon, the government spokesman, told IRIN that suggestions of government involvement in such attacks were "nonsense", adding that the government had repeatedly condemned these "criminal activities".

"The government position is that it does not condone the killing or kidnapping of those who are trying to help the Somali people," he said.

Gobdon said such incidents seriously hampered efforts to assist the thousands of needy Somalis.

Aid workers estimate 2.6 million Somalis need assistance - a number that is expected to reach 3.5 million by year-end if the humanitarian situation does not improve, according to the UN.

Meanwhile, a local human rights group has said some 8,000 people have been killed and more than a million displaced since 2007.

Ali Yassin Gedi of the Elman Peace and Human Rights Centre, told IRIN: "Between January and June 2008, 2,136 people have been killed and 8,636 injured."

He said the death toll for 2007 stood at 6,016 with another 7,714 injured. The figures were based on hospital records, he added.

He said there were now 1.1 million displaced as a result of the fighting between Ethiopian-backed government forces and insurgents.