The Kenyan and Somali militaries have freed four foreign aid workers who were kidnapped from a refugee camp in Kenya last week. They are safely with the Kenyan army and receiving medical attention.
Army forces freed the four hostages after a short overnight gunfight in southern Somalia, not far from the Kenyan border. The international aid workers, who were kidnapped from the world's biggest refugee camp at Dadaab in Kenya, were safe and with the Kenyan army on Monday morning.
"They are safe in our hands, they have been freed," Kenyan army spokesman Cyrus Oguna told the AFP news agency, saying that the rescue mission was a joint operation with the Somali military.
One of the kidnappers was killed in the skirmish, Oguna said, while none of the hostage victims were in any critical danger.
"They are exhausted, they have walked far and have blisters, and one of the aid workers was shot in the leg, but otherwise they are in good health," Oguna said. The aid workers were receiving medical treatment in the border town of Dhobley in southern Somalia.
A colonel from the Somali military similarly confirmed the joint rescue mission in an interview with Reuters.
Plucked from world's biggest refugee camp
The kidnap victims were working for the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) at the Dadaab refugee camp when they were abducted on Friday. One of them hails from Canada, another from Norway, a third holds Canadian and Pakistani citizenship, while the fourth is from the Philippines. A Kenyan driver was killed, and two people were wounded when they were taken hostage.
The kidnapping was the first of its kind since Kenya agreed to deploy troops in the border region with Somalia last October, part of a bilateral attempt to control the al-Shabab insurgency there.
The Kenyan intervention was at least partly prompted by the Islamist militants, with links to al Qaeda, taking two Spanish Medecins Sans Frontieres employees hostage from the Dadaab camp. They are still being held captive.
Dadaab is about 100 kilometers (62 miles) from Somalia. It was established in 1991 as a temporary home for Somalis fleeing violence in the country. It has swelled to become the world's largest refugee camp, housing almost half a million people.
msh/ng (AFP, Reuters)