- Four German tourists, including a woman and a child, were kidnapped by pirates as they were sailing off the coast of Somalia's northern region of Puntland on Monday.
According to Puntland officials, the tourists were kidnapped near the coastal town of Las Qoray. Earlier this year, Puntland and Somalia clashed over the ownership of the coastal town.
The pirates took the tourists hostage and eloped with them into hills around the coastal town. The tourists were abducted after their yacht ran out of fuel.
In an effort to free the hostages, local residents have joined Somaliland soldiers to vigorously search for the pirates, Somaliland Vice President, said the Vice President of the self-declared Somaliland, Ahmed Yusuf Yasin.
Somalia, a country without a proper functioning government since the overthrow of Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991, has been seriously affected by piracy on its waters. In recent months, the French navy has been patrolling on Somalia's coastline.
Since the beginning of 2008, more than two dozen pirate attacks were reported on the Gulf of Aden, with nine of them being successfully hijacked.
In another development, unidentified gunmen abducted a staff of the UN refugee agency UNHCR from his home outside the capital Mogadishu on Saturday night. The agency called for the "immediate and unconditional release" of Hassan Mohamed Ali who lives in Ceelasha village, west of Mogadishu. The Kenyan national was reportedly driven to an undisclosed destination.
"By Sunday evening, UNHCR had heard nothing from him or from his abductors and the reason for his abduction remained unknown," UNHCR said.
The UN Commissioner for Refugees, Antonio Guterres, had earlier called for unconditional release of Kenyan. Mr Ali is not only the longest-serving UNHCR staff member in the Horn of African country, he is also well-known for his humanitarian and human rights advocacy.
"We demand the immediate and unconditional release of Hassan Mohamed Ali," he said, describing the Kenyan's abduction as a "major blow" to humanitarian efforts to alleviate the suffering of an estimated one million internally displaced people in Somalia.
"Following a series of kidnappings and abductions of expatriate aid workers in northeast Somalia, or Puntland, and in south/central Somalia, the United Nations in April withdrew international staff and was gradually redeploying to other areas deemed safer," UNHCR said.
Before he was abducted, Ali was said to be planning to distribute basic aid supplies to some 40,000 newly-displaced people living along the 30km stretch of road from Mogadishu to Afgooye where an estimated 300,000 internally displaced Somalis have been battling with survival. Last week, UNHCR chief described Afgooye corridor as "possibly the worst place in the world to live."
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