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Aidid Releases Some Hostages

September 20, 1995

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) _ Somali militia leader Mohamed Farah Aidid released seven of the 21 foreign aid workers held by his forces for four days. Those freed wouldn’t talk about their ordeal Thursday for fear of jeopardizing those left behind.

Christine Castles of Australia, one of the seven women who were flown to Nairobi after their release, said only that she was happy to be back.

``We’re not allowed to talk to the press,″ she said.

Before the release, detainees had told relief organizations in Nairobi that they are being given food and water and asked that their families be told they are well.

The foreign workers have been held since Sunday, when Aidid’s militia took the southwestern city of Baidoa and confiscated most of their communications equipment.

Aidid’s rival militia leader, Mohamed Ali Mahdi, who also claims to be Somalia’s president, threatened Monday to attack Baidoa if Aidid’s men didn’t withdraw within 48 hours, but as of Wednesday night, the city was quiet.

Relief organizations are afraid their workers could be caught in the fighting. Some speculated that Aidid has stalled on releasing all of them in an attempt to force other countries to recognize him as Somalia’s president.

``Obviously, Gen. Aidid is trying to get some legitimacy for himself and his regime,″ said Scott Kelleher, a spokesman for World Vision, a Christian charity group.

An aide to Aidid complained Tuesday that a letter from an international aid groups addressed Aidid as ``General″ rather than ``Mr. President.″

World Vision has not heard from its 47 Somali workers in Baidoa since just before the city was taken, he said.

Aidid’s supporters declared him president earlier this year and set up a so-called Cabinet in a series of moves not recognized by rival militia leaders or the international community.

In addition to the Americans, three Australians, two Frenchmen, one Italian, a Dutch worker, and employees from Sudan, Rwanda and Kenya are being held. The detainees work for U.N. agencies, CARE International, International Medical Corps and International Development and Rehabilitation Board.

Baidoa is a city of 300,000 about 130 miles northwest of the capital, Mogadishu. Clan leaders reportedly moved troops Tuesday toward Baidoa from Mogadishu and others massed in Bardera, about 70 miles to the southwest.

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