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US Military Operation Frees Hostages In Somalia Successfully

(05h45 UTC - 25. January 2011)

(ecop-marine)

Seven Somali kidnappers were killed instantly, one is dying and four were wounded in a dawn raid on the hostage takers of American Jessica Buchanan and her Danish co-worker Poul Thisted deep inland of central Somalia near Dusamareb this morning, our monitors reported from Galmudug state in central Somalia.

A disinformation campaign initiated by the hostage takers and spread by the website Somalia report, who claimed with detailed stories that the hostages were held on sea-jacked MV ALBEDO near Garacad at the coast and that the demand was 10 mio US Dollars, did not distract the pursuers and this morning the hostages were freed unharmed.

Overnight helicopters landed in Galkayo airport, which is jointly administered by the two regional states of Puntland and Galmudug and started the operation from there.

Meanwhile the negotiations by Somali elders in the hostage case of American writer Michael Scott Moore, hijacked last Saturday, have not brought the envisaged immediate unconditional release of the hostage, who is held by a group, which hold him together with an Israeli and a Seychelloi man from the sea-jacked, Seychelles-flagged motorboat ARIDE near Hobyo.

Background: (Ecop-Marine)

At around 15h00 (local time) on Tuesday, 25. October 2011, Somali gunmen kidnapped two foreign aid worker in the Somali town of Galkayo. The 60-year-old Danish man and the 32-year-old American woman were working for the Danish Demining Group (DDG) when they were seized not far from the Galkayo airport. The airport is jointly managed by the Puntland and the Galmudug Regional States of Somalia. If the Somali colleague who was with them in Northern Somalia is likewise a victim or part of the set-up is not clear yet. The American, Mrs. Jessica Buchanan , is a former a former school teacher from Rosslyn, Virginia/USA, and worked as Regional Education Advisor for the Danish Demining Group, which helps dispose of unexploded bombs and teaches communities about the dangers of land mines and other ordinance, according to its webs ite. Danish Poul Thisted, 60, is said to be an experienced explosives expert. The role of the kidnapped aid workers was unclear, stated AP.

Denmark's minister for development cooperation, Christian Friis Bach, told the Danish media that the demining group was working to help Somali people. "That's why it's both sad and tragic that they have been struck by this kidnapping, and I hope their strong network and a collected effort also by the Foreign Ministry can resolve the situation quickly," he said.

The head of the Danish Refugee Council's International Department in Copenhagen, Ann Mary Olsen said: As a first priority, we have been concentrating on the ongoing investigations. We are keeping close contact with the family members, who are deeply concerned, just as we are. She added: We have informed the family members and we are in close contact with them. We are all deeply concerned with the situation, but we request the media to respect the privacy of the families during this difficult time. Media inquiries are the last thing on their minds at this point. According to Ann Mary Olsen, the staff members were very experienced and trained to work difficult places like Somalia. The Danish Refugee Council has been working there since 1998. Their activity in the area of Galkayo is now temporarily on hold.

Meanwhile it has transpired that the hostages, who had been kidnapped on their way to the airport after completing an awareness training on the dangers of mines and other explosives in Galkayo, have been taken to a remote location in the southern part of Galmudug Regional state, where also abducted Judith Tebbutt and two Spanish aid-workers as well as numerous other hostages, including two Danes and seven Indians a re held on land by different pirate and desperado groups.

On 29. October 2011 two Somali pirates were killed and three others wounded when rival gangs clashed over the control of the hostages.

The two foreign aid workers are alive and well, the Danish aid group said on the last Sunday of October. "I have been told that contact was established today, and I am pleased to announce that both Poul and Jessica are doing well given the circumstances," said Ann Mary Olsen, head of the Danish Refugee Council's international department.

The deputy police chief of Galmudug regional state, Abdi Hasan Gorey, visited the pirates to begin negotiations on 30. October 2011. T he hostages were being treated well and were being fed camel meat and milk, the same food as the pirates were eating, Gorey told Ekstra Bladet

One man, Abdirisak Moalin Dhere, who was responsible for the security of the hostages while in Somalia allegedly has confessed that he had conspired with the pirates to abduct the pair.

"It is important to emphasize that the Danish Refugee Council has a policy which clearly states that the organization does not negotiate with kidnappers," Ann Mary Olsen, the head of DRC's international department, said in the statement.

She noted that DRC had appealed for help from elders, clan leaders and the general public, adding: "We are incredibly grateful for the help and support we meet from the Somali society. We hope it will help facilitate a rapid release of our two kidnapped employees."

Elders in the region said during the first week of November that the pair were reportedly being held for ransom in the coastal Hobyo district, a notorious pirate den.

A Somali colleague seized at the same time was released and is being questioned by police, according to local sources.

For further details and regional information see the Counter-Piracy Portal of ECOTERRA at www.australia.to and the situation map of the PIRACY COASTS OF SOMALIA (2011). See the archive at www.australia.to and news on www.international.to

ECOTERRA Intl. and ECOP-marine serve concerning the counter-piracy issues as advocacy groups in their capacity as human rights, marine and maritime monitors as well as in co-operation with numerous other organizations, groups and individuals as information clearing-house. In difficult cases we have successfully served as mediators.


******

ECOTERRA Intl. is an international nature protection and human rights organization, whose Africa offices in Somalia, Kenya and Tanzania also monitor the marine and maritime situation along the East African Indian Ocean coasts as well as the Gulf of Aden. ECOTERRA is working in Somalia since 1986 and does focus in its work against piracy mainly on coastal development, marine protection and pacification. ECOP-marine (www.ecop.info) is an ECOTERRA group committed to fight against all forms of crime on the waters. Both stand firm against illegal fishing as well as against marine overexploitation and pollution.

ENDS

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