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14.08.2009 Somalia

Somalia: UN envoy welcomes release of abducted aid workers

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12 August - The top United Nations envoy for Somalia today welcomed the release of four aid workers and two pilots who were abducted nine months ago and called for the freeing of remaining hostages.

“It is with great satisfaction that I received the news concerning the release of the six hostages who had been held for so long, and taken into captivity while working in Somalia,” said Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah.

The four aid workers, who were serving with the French non-governmental organization (NGO) Action Against Hunger, and two pilots were abducted last November from an airstrip in the central Somali town of Dusamareb.

“I salute their courage in the face of such physically and emotionally difficult circumstances and I am pleased that an end has come to the concerns and worries endured by their loved ones,” stated Mr. Ould-Abdallah, the Secretary-General's Special Representative for Somalia.

“We should not, however, forget the number of Somalis and foreign nationals that are still being held hostage in unacceptable conditions, an action that should be vehemently condemned by the Somalis and the international community,” he added.

Last month UN humanitarian chief John Holmes warned that aid workers in Somalia – and many other countries – are coming under increasingly violent attack.

The UN has repeatedly called on all parties in Somalia to ensure the safety of humanitarian aid workers, who are tending to the needs of some 3 million people, or 40 per cent of the population, made vulnerable by the combined effects of conflict, drought, high food prices and the collapse of the local currency.

Despite the signing of peace agreements, the formation of a new government and election of a new president, Somalia continues to experience strife and instability. Clashes in the capital, Mogadishu, since early May between Government forces and the Al-Shabaab and Hisb-ul-Islam militant groups have forced over 200,000 people from their homes, many of them for the second time over the course of the past year.

In a related development, Mr. Ould-Abdallah welcomed today's convening of the Joint Security Committee held in Mogadishu as part of continuing efforts towards reforming and improving security in Somalia.

The committee comprises representatives of the UN Political Office for Somalia (UNPOS), the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and the international community, and was established by the 2008 UN-facilitated Djibouti Agreement.

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