Pakistani oil worker briefly kidnapped in Somalia – MOGADISHU (AFP)

October 8th, 2008 Print Print Email Email

Security forces on Wednesday freed a Pakistani national working for a Canadian oil firm in Somalia’s breakaway region of Puntland, hours after gunmen had kidnapped him, officials told AFP. (more…)

Security forces on Wednesday freed a Pakistani national working for a Canadian oil firm in Somalia’s breakaway region of Puntland, hours after gunmen had kidnapped him, officials told AFP.

The gunmen had snatched the man in an area called Daror, in the northern Somali region of Puntland, the latest in a string of kidnappings targeting foreigners in the lawless Horn of Africa country.

“The security men in the exploration in the exploration field attacked the kidnappers somewhere about 70 kilometres (40 miles) from the place where the abduction took place,” Puntland Mining Minister Hassan Alore said.

“The force succeeded in releasing the hostage during the raid, in which one of the kidnappers was killed, one wounded and two arrested,” he said.

“The Pakistani citizen was not harmed and was freed successfully,” he added.

An official speaking to AFP on condition of anonymity before the release said the identities of the gunmen were not known.

“We don’t know the identity of the kidnappers and their motive, but it could be part of the growing criminal acts by gangs who are seeking money,” he said.

Bossaso residents and employees of Africa Oil Corporation firm, for which the Pakistani is said to have worked, claimed he had been abducted by his two bodyguards.

“This is an inside job. The kidnappers are employees of the Africa Oil Corporation. They took the man to (a) mountainous area, which is not accessible by vehicles,” said Mohamed Hassan Osman, a Bossaso trader.

“Most of us knew the two bodyguards as good people. They wanted to become rich. It is like the piracy,” he told AFP, referring a rash of pirate attacks on foreign ships off Somalia’s coast.

Armed gangs in Puntland and elsewhere in Somalia have carried out scores of kidnappings in recent months, often targeting foreigners or Somalis working with international organisations to demand ransoms.

The self-declared state of Puntland in the north has been largely spared the latest violence, but it has been used by pirates seizing foreign vessels and gangs smuggling goods, arms and people across the Gulf of Aden.

Last month, Somali rebels kidnapped two foreign aid workers from eastern Ethiopia and took them to an unknown location in central Somalia. Their condition remains unknown.

Southern Somalia has been torn by 17 years of almost uninterrupted civil conflict since the 1991 ouster of former president Mohamed Siad Barre. Numerous UN-backed initiatives have failed to restore stability in the country.

Thousands of civilians have died in the guerrilla war that has pitted invading Ethiopian troops against Islamist insurgents since last year.

Before the country plunged into conflict, geological exploration indicated that Somalia could have oil reserves, given its proximity to the oil-rich Red Sea and Gulf of Aden.

Last year, Puntland authorities signed a production sharing deal with the Canadian oil firm, while several other companies including China’s CNOOC and China International Oil and Gas are reported to have signed agreements with the semi-autonomous region.

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