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German Red Cross nurse kidnapped in Somalia

May 3, 2018

Armed men have entered the Red Cross compound in Somalia's capital Mogadishu and abducted a German nurse, officials say. The incident was quickly blamed on the extremist group Al-Shabaab which operates in the area.

Red Cross flag
Image: picture-alliance/Ton Koene

A female German nurse has been kidnapped from a compound belonging to the International Committee of the Red Cross in Somalia's capital Mogadishu, the aid group said on Thursday.

The abduction is the latest in a series of targeted attacks on aid workers in the chaotic Horn of Africa nation.

Read more: Escape from al-Shabaab: 'I was turned into a sex slave'

What we know so far

  • Unidentified armed men entered the Red Cross compound at about 8 p.m. (17.00 UTC) on Wednesday.
  • Reports suggest she was taken through a back entrance and into a waiting vehicle.
  • They kidnapped an unidentified German woman despite several security guards working at the site.
  • Police said they detained those guards for questioning.
  • The organization said it is "in contact with various authorities to try and secure her release."
  • No one immediately claimed responsibility, but the Al-Qaeda-linked Al-Shabaab extremist group has carried out similar operations.

Read more: Germany to end participation in EU military mission in Somalia

27 dead after Mogadishu attack

Fears for nurse's safety 

Daniel O'Malley, the deputy head of the Red Cross delegation in Somalia, said: "We are deeply concerned about the safety of our colleague. She is a nurse who was working every day to save lives and improve the health of some of Somalia's most vulnerable people."

Read more: Rights group: Al Shabab forcibly recruits children

Dangerous country for aid workers

 Somalia, which collapsed into civil war in 1991, remains in a state of chaos following a decade-long insurgency by Al-Shabaab militants. The country has seen an influx of aid agencies to deal with a severe drought that has left hundreds of thousands of people close to starvation. At least 30 aid agency staff were killed in Somalia in 2016 and 2017, according to the United Nations, while 30 humanitarian staff were abducted during a particularly violent period last year.

Read more: Safe haven turned into nightmare for Somali woman

Famine fears in a failed state

Who is Al-Shabaab? The extremist group, known as the Youngsters in English, formed more than a decade ago to fight to impose a strict interpretation of Islamic law across Somalia. 

How powerful are they? Although it has lost large swathes of territory it once controlled in the south of Somalia, the al-Qaeda-linked militant group still has the ability to carry out spectacular and deadly bomb attacks. The deadliest ever, a truck bombing last October in Mogadishu, killed more than 500 people.

Foreigners, aid workers targeted: On Tuesday a local World Health Organization (WHO) worker was shot dead by two men at a busy market in Mogadishu. Al-Shabaab, meanwhile, claimed responsibility for bombing the Red Cross office in the capital in March, which left an aid worker dead and another staffer wounded. In the past, foreigners, including journalists and aid workers, have been kidnapped by armed gangs and held for ransom, sometimes for years at a time.

 US airstrikes target 'Islamic State' fighters in Somalia

mm/aw (AFP, AP, dpa)