aid workers kidnapped

The BBC’s Nawaz Shah says it is unclear who kidnapped the MSF doctors
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Gunmen have kidnapped two Spanish doctors working for the medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) near Kenya’s border with Somalia.

The two were seized from the Dadaab refugee camp, which houses hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing famine in the Horn of Africa.

Their Kenyan driver was injured and is now in hospital, MSF say.

In recent weeks, two foreign women – one English, the other French – have been kidnapped near the border.

Kenyan police told the BBC they were pursuing the kidnappers towards the Somali border by road and by air.

Al-Shabab?
MSF have confirmed the two missing doctors are European and have released a brief statement.

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Analysis

Mike Wooldridge
BBC News, World affairs correspondent
As the sprawling complex of Somali refugee camps at Dadaab has become even bigger, with the relentless influx of famine victims from across the border, security has been stepped up too.

Convoys of aid vehicles are a common sight on the dusty roads leading to and from the individual camps. But relief work of all kinds goes on daily across such a large area – in the hands of UN agencies and a host of non-governmental organisations – and it would be a near impossible task to seal the camps and prevent any possible infiltration by militant groups.

This seizure of the MSF vehicle follows other vehicle hijackings. Aid officials say security is being immediately reviewed, with the likelihood that it will prompt more restrictive measures.

But UNHCR spokesman Andrej Mahecic pointed out that this is a particularly critical time in the efforts to contain the famine and the flow of refugees. “The human needs are immense,” he said.

“This morning an MSF team suffered an incident in Dadaab,” the statement says.

“One driver was injured: he’s currently hospitalised and stable. Two international staff are missing. A crisis team has been set up to deal with this incident.”

Kenyan police have said the two doctors are both Spanish women.

“Two female aid workers working for MSF were… kidnapped by suspected al Shabab militants in Dadaab refugee camp,” regional police commander Leo Nyongesa told the Reuters news agency.

The attack happened near the Ifo camp, one of three areas that make up Dadaab, just 80km (50 miles) from the Somali border. In all, Dadaab now houses 450,000 refugees, making it the equivalent of Kenya’s third-largest city.

Security in and around Dadaab is notoriously bad.

It is not yet clear who was behind this latest kidnapping.

The Islamist al-Shabab group controls much of southern Somalia but usually denies allegations of involvement in such cases.

The BBC’s Bashkash Jugsodaay, at Dadaab, has seen two helicopters heading towards the Kenya-Somalia border.

It is unclear whether al-Shabab or bandits were behind the attack, our reporter says.

Refugees told our reporter that bandits – armed with AK-47 rifles – often enter the camp at night, robbing them of their belongings.

The UN has declared a famine in six regions of Somalia, most of them under the control of al-Shabab.

The region is experiencing its worst drought in more than half a century.

Al-Shabab, which is affiliated with al-Qaeda and controls large swathes of south and central Somalia, had imposed a ban on foreign aid agencies in its territories in 2009.

However, it has recently allowed limited access.

The autumn rains have now begun in Mogadishu, alleviating the drought. Thousands of people have arrived in the Somali capital in recent weeks, fleeing food shortages.

Last month, 56-year-old Briton Judith Tebbutt was kidnapped by gunmen from a remote Kenyan resort at Kiwayu. Her husband David was killed. Mrs Tebbutt is believed to be held by al-Shabab in Somalia.

On 1 October, a 66-year-old French woman was seized by an armed gang on Kenya’s northern resort island of Manda and taken to Somalia.

And a Kenyan driver working for the Care charity was abducted from Dadaab on 21 September.

The UK Foreign Office has advised against all but essential travel to the Kenyan coast near the Somali border.

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