Somali militants release 5 Kenyans

Militants of Al Shabaab train with weapons on a street in the outskirts of Mogadishu. The militiamen linked to the group have released 5 Kenyans they had "arrested" on Wednesday, March 25. Photo/FILE

Five Kenyans abducted by a Somali militant group linked to Al Shabaab on Wednesday have been freed after negotiations between the militants and a Kenyan delegation led by the North Eastern Provincial Commissioner Josephat Maingi.

The four government officials and driver were immediately taken to Mandera in north eastern Kenya after being released. They are said to be in good health.

During negotiations for their release that spanned about four hours, the Kenyan delegation undertook to ensure the release of residents of Somalia's Bula Hawo town currently in the custody of Kenya police.

The Al-Shabaab group is also said to have demanded that Kenya police stop harassing Somalis along the border.

Those who had been kidnapped were Wajir South district education officer Moses Mwangi, his quality assurance colleague Charles Nyakundi, the provincial quality assurance officer Onchiri Onyancha, a Wajir South education official and their driver Abdullahi.

Militiamen claimed that they “arrested” the officials after they crossed the border into Somalia “without permission”. The civil servants were abducted at Bula Hawo Town, a kilometre away from the border town of Mandera.

They had apparently gone for shopping on the Somali side of the border, a fairly normal activity in the area. The officials had earlier attended the provincial primary school ball games tournament in Mandera Town.

The militants had said that the captives would be investigated and taken to court to explain their mission in Somalia

Al-Shabaab is an extremist Islamist group with links to Osama bin Laden’s Al-Qaeda. It controls southern and central parts of Somalia, and is opposed to the interim government of President Sheikh Shariff Ahmed.

It has on numerous occasions warned the Kenya government over its support for the Somali government and has threatened to wage war against Kenya.