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Somalia: U.N. food chief released

  • Story Highlights
  • Chief of U.N. World Food Programme in Mogasdishu released after a week
  • No explanation has been given for his release or arrest by government troops
  • WFP, which had halted its food program in Mogadishu, welcomes news
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(CNN) -- The head of the U.N. World Food Programme's Mogasdishu office was released Tuesday after nearly a week in detention, a WFP spokeswoman in Rome confirmed to CNN.

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A vehicle leaves the United Nations compound in Mogadishu.

Idris Osman was handed over to the care of WFP staff in the Somali capital early Tuesday, Brenda Barton said. Somali government troops arrested Osman last Wednesday during a raid on the the U.N. compound in Mogadishu that involved up to 60 armed security personnel .

No explanation has been given for Osman's release or the reason for his arrest, which U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned as a violation of international law.

"He (Osman) is safe and well and with our staff in Somalia. As yet the (Somali) president's office has provided us with no clues as to why this happened. We are still investigating," Barton told CNN.

WFP head Josette Sheeran welcomed news of the release.

"We welcome the release of Idris Osman, and are pleased that he will be reunited with his family," Sheeran said in a statement released by the WFP's Rome-based headquarters.

The WFP halted its food distribution program in Mogadishu following the October 17 incident to safeguard the safety of its other staff.

The program had only restarted two days before Osman's arrest. It was suspended in June following the fatal shooting of a WFP aid worker in the Somali capital.

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Barton said the WFP was reviewing whether to lift the suspension of the program, which provides food relief to some 75,000 people in the war-ravaged city.

Somalia has relied heavily on international aid since 1991, when the collapse of its government spawned a decade and a half of civil war.

The U.N.-backed transitional government took power in Mogadishu last December after an Ethiopian-led invasion drove out the Islamic Courts Union, which had seized power from U.S.-backed warlords in mid-2006.

Despite the deployment of an African Union-led peacekeeping force, remnants of the Islamic group continue to fight government and Ethiopian troops in the capital and other parts of the country. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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