4 aid workers taken in Kenya rescued by militia

July 2, 2012 - 11:40 AM
Kenya Aid Ambush

Released aid workers Qurat-Ul-Ain Sadazai, 38, a Canadian citizen of Pakistani origin, left, Glenn Costes of the Philippines, 40, center, Steven Dennis of Canada, 37, above-center, and Astrid Sehl of Norway, 33, center-right, arrive back by Kenyan military helicopter at Wilson airport in Nairobi, Kenya Monday, July 2, 2012. A pro-government Somali militia group said Monday that it rescued the four aid workers kidnapped by gunmen from a refugee camp in Kenya last week. (AP Photo/Sayyid Azim)

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Four aid workers kidnapped at gunpoint from Kenya's largest refugee camp arrived back in Kenya's capital aboard a military helicopter on Monday after a pro-government Somali militia group rescued the four inside Somalia.

The four workers from the Norwegian Refugee Council smiled and waved after landing in Nairobi.

"We are happy. We are back. We are alive and we are happy this has ended," said Qurat-Ul-Ain Sadazai, one of the four workers.

Elisabeth Rasmusson, the aid group's secretary general, told a news conference in Oslo, the Norwegian capital, that she was relieved the four had been released. "What we know right now is that they have been released and are in good condition."

Abdinasir Serar, a representative with the Ras Kamboni militia in Somalia, said his group heard of Friday's kidnapping in Kenya's Dadaab refugee camp and pursued the kidnappers. Ras Kamboni fighters caught up with the kidnappers Monday morning about 60 kilometers (35 miles) inside Somalia.

Ras Kamboni's leader, Ahmed Madobe, said his men killed one of the kidnappers but that the other three escaped. The rescue happened in the village of Alu Gulay.

The four rescued workers were taken to the Somali town of Dhobley and were then flown to Nairobi. Ras Kamboni works alongside Somali government and Kenyan military forces. Kenya sent troops to Somalia last October to hunt al-Shabab militants.

Four gunmen attacked a two-vehicle convoy from the Norwegian Refugee Council on Friday, killing one Kenyan driver and wounding two other Kenyans. The gunmen took one of the two vehicles and the four workers. The group later abandoned the vehicle and began walking toward the Somali border.

The Norwegian Refugee Council said the four released hostages were: Astrid Sehl of Norway, 33; Glenn Costes of Philippines, 40; Steven Dennis of Canada, 37; and Canadian citizen Qurat-Ul-Ain Sadazai, 38, who is of Pakistani origin.

Rasmusson was present during Friday's attack but was not harmed or taken. She said Friday that the attack happened on a main road toward the city of Dadaab in "what is recognized as the safe part of the camp."

A Kenyan police commander said the aid group originally arranged to have armed security travel with it but that the group canceled the security arrangements at the last minute.

After an attack on a Doctors Without Borders convoy last year in which two Spanish women were abducted, some aid groups began using security escorts in Dadaab, a series of sprawling camps connected by sandy roads.

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Associated Press reporter Abdi Guled in Mogadishu, Somalia, Khaled Kazziha in Nairobi and Jan M. Olsen in Copenhagen, Denmark contributed to this report.