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Journalists kidnapped in Somalia

  • Story Highlights
  • Two international journalists and Somali colleague and driver kidnapped
  • Canandian Amanda Lindhout and Australian Nigel Brenan seized
  • The group had been conducting interviews at a refugee camp
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(CNN) -- Two international journalists, along with their Somali colleague and a driver, were kidnapped Saturday, a journalists' organization in Somalia said.

A young fighter mans a gun on the beach of Kismayo. The photographer asked not be identified.

Amanda Lindhout, a Canadian journalist, and Nigel Brenan, an Australian photojournalist, had been in the country just three days when militia men snatched them outside the capital city of Mogadishu, the National Union of Somali Journalists said Sunday.

The kidnappers also took Abdifatah Mohammed Elmi, a Somalian photojournalist who was acting as the pair's translator, and their driver, the journalists' union said.

The four were on their way back after conducting interviews at a refugee camp.

Officials do not know if the journalists are being held for ransom and who is behind the abductions.

"No formal claim of responsibility was made," the journalists' group said. "As well, there have been no demands."

Somalia has been mired in chaos since 1991, when warlords overthrew dictator Mohamed Siad Barre and sparked brutal clan infighting. Somalia's current transitional government is trying to maintain control of the capital, with the help of Ethiopian forces.

On Friday, fighters from the Islamic group Al Shabab took control of the southern port town of Kismayo after three days of clashes. The fighting left at least 89 people dead, 207 wounded and displaced some 5,500 people, triggering a humanitarian crisis.

Ethiopia invaded Somalia in December 2006 to install the transitional government in Mogadishu after a decade and a half of near-anarchy. The invasion had the blessing of the United States, which accused Islamists of harboring fugitives from the al Qaeda terrorist movement.

But the Ethiopian troops quickly became embroiled in an insurgency led by the Islamists. And as guerrilla attacks mounted, efforts to replace the Ethiopians with an African Union-led peacekeeping mission faltered.

The conflict displaced hundreds of thousands of Somalis, further worsening a humanitarian crisis that dates back to the collapse of the country's last government in 1991.

The situation has been exacerbated by drought, continual armed conflicts in central and southern Somalia, and high inflation on food and fuel prices.

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