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.