- The Washington Times - Monday, March 16, 2009

MOGADISHU, SOMALIA (AP) - Gunmen kidnapped three aid workers in southern Somalia on Monday, a United Nations worker said.

The official said two employees of the United Nations Development Program and one employee of the World Food Program were seized in the town of Wajid but he had no further details.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to press.

An employee of a local humanitarian organization said the three kidnapped workers were a Ugandan, a Russian and a Somali. The employee asked for anonymity because he feared retribution. Attacks on aid workers are common in Somalia.

A witness said the three were seized by gunmen along with a Somali translator who was later released.

The witness says the three had only been in Wajid for one night and were on their way to the town’s airstrip when they were seized. The witness also spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation by the kidnappers.

According to the U.N., 35 aid workers were killed and 26 abducted last year in Somalia. Two aid workers have been killed this year already.

The arid Horn of Africa nation has not had a functioning government since 1991 and is riven between clan warlords and an Islamist insurgency battling the weak U.N.-backed government. Nearly half its population is dependent on aid.

___

AP writer Katharine Houreld in Nairobi, Kenya, contributed to this story.

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