Somalia’s Islamist insurgents denied on Monday that they kidnapped two Western journalists near the capital Mogadishu and said they suspected the pair were being held for ransom by gunmen.
There has been no claim of responsibility for Saturday’s abduction of Amanda Lindhout, a Canadian reporter freelancing for French television and Canada’s Global National News, and Nigel Brennan, a freelance Australian photojournalist.
« We don’t know who kidnapped them. There is a (rebel) group which kidnaps for ransom, separate from rivals who have political objectives, » Islamist spokesman Sheikh Abdirahim Isse Adow told Reuters.
He did not elaborate, but said they were investigating.
« We shall do all that is possible to save them, » he said.
Abductions are common in the lawless Horn of Africa nation where the insurgents have been battling President Abdullahi Yusuf’s interim government and its Ethiopian military allies since the start of 2007.
Government officials said they also did not know where the two reporters were being held, or the local translator and driver who were seized with them. The journalists were kidnapped when they were visiting displaced civilians on the outskirts of the city.
« We do not know where the foreign journalists are being held specifically. If we get to know, we shall make all efforts to release them, » Abdifatah Ibrahim Shaweye, the deputy mayor of Mogadishu, told Reuters.
Somalia is one of the most dangerous countries in the world for journalists and humanitarian workers to operate in. The violence has killed more than 8,000 civilians since early last year, and driven one million more from their homes.
In Australia, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said the situation was « a sensitive and difficult case », and that diplomats from Pretoria and Nairobi were involved in the investigation