Two Hostages Freed for Food in Somalia
BRISBANE, Australia (AP) _ Two employees of an Australian catering firm that provides meals to U.N. troops in Somalia were released Sunday by kidnappers in exchange for a sack of rice, cooking oil and some corned beef.
Wayne Hargreaves, a water-treatment expert from Australia, and cook John Warjui of Kenya were kidnapped by Somali gunmen March 12. They were released unharmed in the Somali capital of Mogadishu.
″The best part is they were exchanged for food and not money,″ Hargreaves’ wife, Denise, said Monday. ″That’s what we all wanted. Anything else would have sent a message to others that kidnapping is a lucrative business.″
The two men were not mistreated during their captivity, said their employer, Dave Morris of Morris Catering Co. He described them as tired but in good spirits.
Morris described the food package as ″pretty small,″ but did not give exact amounts. The kidnappers - a gang of teen-agers unconnected to Somalia’s feuding clans - initially had demanded $1 million, he said.
Violence has increased in Somalia as the United States and other Western nations withdraw, underlining the lawlessness and fragility of the country they are leaving behind. The last U.S. troops left Friday.
Somali warlords signed a peace agreement last week, but previous truces have not lasted long.
Two other employees of the Queensland-based caterers were killed and a third wounded Tuesday after they stepped out of a company truck at a bandit roadblock.
Morris’ 21-year-old son, Tyson, was shot and killed by a sniper just after joining his parents in Somalia last October.
The company has an $8 million, one-year contract to help feed U.N. troops in Somalia.
Mrs. Hargreaves said she spoke to her husband by phone early Monday.
″I must say it’s just a happier day than the day we were married,″ she said.
Hargreaves, 48, and Warjui, 25, will continue working for Morris Catering, Mrs. Hargreaves said.