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Somalia sends troops to rescue aid workers nabbed by pirates

Soldiers for the transitional Somali government in Mogadishu have increasingly taken on pirate gangs, as they extend their authority outside of Mogadishu.

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Soldiers for the transitional Somali government in Mogadishu have increasingly taken on pirate gangs, as they extend their authority outside of Mogadishu, and together with allied forces of the African Union, Britain, and the United States, Somalis have begun to launch rescue operations to release those who are kidnapped.

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Just last week, four foreign aid workers for the Norwegian Refugee Committee were successfully rescued in a combined operation by Somali and Kenyan armed forces, near the town of Afmadow.

Two Spaniards, kidnapped from the Doctors Without Borders facility at Kenya’s Dadaab refugee complex along the Somali border, were kidnapped in October 2011, and remain in captivity.

While there is no direct relationship between pirate gangs and the anti-government Islamist fighters called Al-Shabab, the growing confidence of the Somali government and its recent battlefield successes in dislodging Shabab fighters in south central Somalia affects criminals and Islamists alike. It is the lack of any real governing authority that has allowed both Islamists and pirates to thrive in Somalia, and any return of governance is a threat to both.

There are signs that Shabab, in addition to losing territory to the Somali government, has begun to lose some of their fighters due to defections. According to two recent Shabab defectors, interviewed by Associated Press, Shabab’s loss of control over market traders in Mogadishu and other “tax” revenues have taken a heavy financial toll on the organization. Many Shabab fighters receive only one meal per day, the defectors told AP.

A spokesman for IAS called for the three aid workers’ release.

"The team was travelling in two vehicles including an escort car with three armed Puntland Police Officers who were overpowered by the attackers," IAS Executive Director Leif Zetterlund said in a statement, quoted by China’s state-owned Xinhua news agency. "One local staff was shot and critically injured and three Kenyan expatriates were kidnapped and taken to an unknown destination."

Staff writer Scott Baldauf contributed to this story from Boston. 


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