Skip to main content

Abducted aid workers freed in Kenya

By David McKenzie, CNN
updated 2:30 PM EDT, Mon July 2, 2012
  • NEW: A shootout frees the four aid workers, the Kenyan military says
  • The aid workers are with the Norwegian Refugee Council
  • The abductors get away with a refugee council vehicle
  • Kenya has blamed previous abductions on the militant Al-Shabaab group

Nairobi, Kenya (CNN) -- Four aid workers, who were abducted from Kenya's vast Dadaab refugee complex near the Somali border last week, were freed late Sunday during a shootout with kidnappers, a military official said..

Kenya Defense Force soldiers, working with Somali government troops, confronted the abductors after tips from local residents, Col. Cyrus Oguna said. One of the kidnappers was killed, and two escaped when they tried to flee with their hostages.

The workers, a Norwegian, Pakistani, Filipino and Canadian, were taken to a military base in Dhobley, Somalia, he said. Although none of them were hurt in Sunday's gunfight, the Pakistani was shot in the leg during the kidnapping and underwent surgery at the base. Details on his condition were not immediately available.

Several days on the run took its toll on the workers.

"They were tired, fatigued, hungry and unwell," Oguna said. "The kidnappers were making them walk during the night and hide during the day."

The battle against al-Shabaab in Somalia

All work for the Norwegian Refugee Council, a European aid group.

"The Norwegian Refugee Council is relieved and pleased to confirm that our four abducted colleagues are found and released," according to the global humanitarian agency's website.

The aid group said the workers' families have been notified and more information will be released later.

The council has released few details about the kidnappings.

"In our experience with these types of incidents, the less information we provide on the identity of those abducted, the better," agency spokesman Rolf Vestvik said Friday.

The aid agency said only that a convoy "was involved in an incident" in Dadaab and that Secretary-General Elisabeth Rasmusson and Country Director Hassan Khaire were at the camp but neither was in the convoy.

While the four aid workers were taken, their Kenyan driver was killed, police said Friday.

Two other staff members were injured and treated at a hospital in the capital of Nairobi, officials said. A Norwegian Refugee Council vehicle also was taken.

Police have not said whether the kidnappers were from Al-Shabaab, an al Qaeda-linked group that is fighting to impose Islamic law in Somalia and controls large parts of the troubled nation.

Kenya has blamed previous abductions of tourists and aid workers on Al-Shabaab.

In September, armed bandits broke into a beachfront cottage where Britons Judith and David Tebbutt, both in their 50s, were staying. David Tebbutt was shot dead while trying to resist the attack. His wife was grabbed and spirited away on a speedboat. She was released months later in Somalia after her family paid a ransom.

In October, pirates made another cross-border raid, this time snatching a French woman in her 60s, who used a wheelchair and was believed to be in bad health, from a holiday home on Manda Island, where she lived part of the year. She later died, likely because of the kidnappers' refusal to give her medicine, according to the French Foreign Ministry.

Also in October, gunmen abducted two Spanish workers with the medical charity Doctors Without Borders from Dadaab, the world's largest refugee camp, which houses nearly 500,000 people about 50 miles west of the Somali border.

CNN's Elizabeth Joseph and Journalist Lillian Leposo contributed to this report.

Part of complete coverage on
updated 10:26 AM EST, Wed February 6, 2013
Advocates say the exam includes unnecessarily invasive and irrelevant procedures -- like a so-called "two finger" test.
updated 7:09 PM EST, Tue February 5, 2013
Supplies of food, clothing and fuel are running short in Damascus and people are going hungry as the civil war drags on.
updated 1:01 PM EST, Wed February 6, 2013
Supporters of Richard III want a reconstruction of his head to bring a human aspect to a leader portrayed as a murderous villain.
updated 10:48 AM EST, Tue February 5, 2013
Robert Fowler spent 130 days held hostage by the same al Qaeda group that was behind the Algeria massacre. He shares his experience.
updated 12:07 AM EST, Wed February 6, 2013
As "We are the World" plays, a video shows what looks like a nuclear attack on the U.S. Jim Clancy reports on a bizarre video from North Korea.
The relationship is, once again, cold enough to make Obama's much-trumpeted "reset" in Russian-U.S. relations seem thoroughly off the rails.
Ten years on, what do you think the Iraq war has changed in you, and in your country? Send us your thoughts and experiences.
updated 7:15 AM EST, Tue February 5, 2013
Musician Daniela Mercury has sold more than 12 million albums worldwide over a career span of nearly 30 years.
Photojournalist Alison Wright travelled the world to capture its many faces in her latest book, "Face to Face: Portraits of the Human Spirit."
updated 7:06 PM EST, Tue February 5, 2013
Europol claims 380 soccer matches, including top level ones, were fixed - as the scandal widens, CNN's Dan Rivers looks at how it's done.
updated 7:37 AM EST, Wed February 6, 2013
That galaxy far, far away is apparently bigger than first thought. The "Star Wars" franchise will get two spinoff movies, Disney announced.
updated 7:27 PM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
It's an essential part of any trip, an activity we all take part in. Yet almost none of us are any good at it. Souvenir buying is too often an obligatory slog.