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Foreign aid workers pulled from Somali capital to protest kidnappings

November 27, 1997

MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) _ Three European aid agencies withdrew foreign staff from Somalia on Wednesday to protest the harassment and abduction of relief workers trying to rescue thousands trapped by flooding.

Spain’s Doctors Without Borders, France’s Action Against Hunger and North-South Italian Cooperation sent their foreign employees to Nairobi, capital of neighboring Kenya.

A worker of the European Union’s Somalia Unit also left, said Maria Frauenrath, a U.N. spokeswoman. But she said the agencies would continue helping more than 230,000 people left homeless by the worst flooding to hit Somalia since 1961.

The three relief agencies also withdrew staff because gunmen have begun to demand $10 from each vehicle crossing the ``Green Line,″ which divides Somalia’s capital into warring factions, Frauenrath said.

The total of evacuees was not immediately available. At least three foreigners with the International Committee of the Red Cross and three Germans working for Diakone Bread for the World remained.

Aid workers have often been targets of armed Somali factions vying for control of the country, which has had no central government since a 1991 coup ousted the president.

Security on the north side of Mogadishu _ where most aid workers live _ has worsened since Islamic courts collapsed a year ago.

On Monday, militiamen briefly took as hostages two relief workers from Coperazioni Italiano Nord-Sud. The Italian aid workers were taken after they came upon a dispute over farmland 15 miles north of Mogadishu.

Militiamen also killed two Somali employees of the Italian agency and wounded a driver for CARE International. Seven militiamen died.

In another incident, clan fighters abducted four U.N. employees and another from the European Union unit for three days in northeastern Somalia. They were released unharmed Monday.

Update hourly