- Two foreign aid workers for Medecins du Monde have been kidnapped from Ethiopia's Ogaden region and taken into Somalia, charity group and local residents said today.
Both employees of French aid agency, were seized from Fadhigaradle village where they were visiting drought-hit areas Monday, said Hareri Hassan Barre, commissioner for Balanbale district in central Somalia.
"Two expatriate workers on mission in Ogaden region were taken Monday," charity said in a statement on its website.
While aid workers were taken from Ogaden, Ethiopia's Somali region bordering Somalia, they were taken across the border by armed gunmen.
"We have sent security forces to search for aid workers, who were brought to the region late yesterday," said Ali Sheikh Hashi, another local official. Medecins du Monde confirmed abductions, but did not give nationality of its employees.
Armed Somali gangs have carried out scores of kidnappings in recent months, often targeting foreigners or Somalis working with international organisations to demand ransoms.
Somalia has been plagued by chaos since the overthrow of dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991.
The weak central government has been unable to suppress the brutal insurgency that has gripped the country since early 2007 and has also failed to curb rampant piracy off the coastline.
Since last year, thousands of civilians have died and hundreds of thousands displaced in guerilla war pitting invading Ethiopian troops against Islamist insurgents, accused of ties to Al-Qaeda.
Kidnappings and violence have disrupted aid operations in Somalia, where at least 3.2 million people are facing food shortages and several thousand need medical treatment for battle wounds and other ailments.
Hundreds of Somalis aboard trucks and others on foot fled out of the capital Mogadishu, a day after fighting between Islamists and Somali forces, backed by Ethiopian and African Union troops, which killed at least 29 civilians.
Over a dozen ships are in the hands of pirates seeking ransom. Ethnic Somali rebels are also battling Ethiopian government in Ogaden region.
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