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CRIME

German kidnapped in northern Somalia

A German national and his Somali wife were kidnapped by gunmen in the northern Somali breakaway state of Puntland, according to local officials.

The pair’s vehicle was intercepted as they were driving in the port city of Bossaso on Saturday evening, Puntland police officer Ahmed Jama said. “The German national and his Somali wife were kidnapped by gunmen who took them towards the mountainous areas in eastern Bossaso,” he said.

Officials said the German national, whose name could not immediately be confirmed, had been staying in Bossaso for several weeks. “The German citizen was trying to visit his wife’s relatives when the gunmen kidnapped. We have been told that he is a Muslim with a Somali wife who resides in Bossaso,” Puntland presidential adviser Bile Mohamoud Qabowsade said.

Armed gangs in Puntland elsewhere in Somalia have carried out scores of kidnappings in recent months, often targeting foreigners or Somalis working with international organisations to demand ransoms.

Kidnappers have been holding three journalists – a Canadian, an Australian and a Somali – since August 23 and are reportedly demanding $2.5 million to release them.

Southern Somalia has been torn by 17 years of almost uninterrupted civil conflict since the 1991 ouster of former president Mohamed Siad Barre. Thousands of civilians have died in the guerrilla war that has pitted invading Ethiopian troops against Islamist insurgents since last year.

The self-declared state of Puntland has been largely spared by the latest violence but it has been used by pirates taking foreign ships hostage and gangs smuggling goods, arms and people across the Gulf of Aden.

CRIME

Former Nazi camp guard, 101, gets five-year jail sentence

A German court on Tuesday handed a five-year jail sentence to a 101-year-old former Nazi concentration camp guard, the oldest person so far to go on trial for complicity in war crimes during the Holocaust.

Former Nazi camp guard, 101, gets five-year jail sentence

Josef S. was found guilty of being an accessory to murder while working as a prison guard at the Sachsenhausen camp in Oranienburg, north of Berlin, between 1942 and 1945, presiding judge Udo Lechtermann said.

The pensioner, who now lives in Brandenburg state, had pleaded innocent, saying he did “absolutely nothing” and was not aware of the gruesome crimes being carried out at the camp.

“I don’t know why I am here,” he said at the close of his trial on Monday.

But prosecutors said he “knowingly and willingly” participated in the murders of 3,518 prisoners at the camp and called for him to be punished with five years behind bars.

READ ALSO: Trials of aging Nazis a ‘reminder for the present’, says German prosecutor

More than 200,000 people, including Jews, Roma, regime opponents and gay people, were detained at the Sachsenhausen camp between 1936 and 1945.

Tens of thousands of inmates died from forced labour, murder, medical experiments, hunger or disease before the camp was liberated by Soviet troops, according to the Sachsenhausen Memorial and Museum.

Prosecutors said the man had aided and abetted the “execution by firing squad of Soviet prisoners of war in 1942” and the murder of prisoners “using the poisonous gas Zyklon B”.

He was 21 years old at the time.

Contradictory statements

During the trial, S. made several inconsistent statements about his past, complaining that his head was getting “mixed up”.

At one point, the centenarian said he had worked as an agricultural labourer in Germany for most of World War II, a claim contradicted by several historical documents bearing his name, date and place of birth.

After the war, the man was transferred to a prison camp in Russia before returning to Germany, where he worked as a farmer and a locksmith.

He remained at liberty during the trial, which began in 2021 but has been delayed several times because of his health.

Despite his conviction, he is highly unlikely to be put behind bars, given his age.

His lawyer Stefan Waterkamp told AFP ahead of the verdict that if found guilty, he would appeal.

More than seven decades after World War II, German prosecutors are racing to bring the last surviving Nazi perpetrators to justice.

The 2011 conviction of former guard John Demjanjuk, on the basis that he served as part of Hitler’s killing machine, set a legal precedent and paved the way for several of these twilight justice cases.

Since then, courts have handed down several guilty verdicts on those grounds rather than for murders or atrocities directly linked to the individual accused.

By David COURBET

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