Fri, Jan 04, 2008 - Page 6 News List

Gunmen in Somalia release kidnapped doctor and nurse

AFP , MOGADISHU

A Spanish doctor and an Argentine nurse abducted a week ago in northern Somalia were released by their captors on Wednesday, a local government official and the two women's charity said.

On Dec. 26, gunmen abducted Mercedes Garcia and Pilar Bauza, a Spanish doctor and an Argentine nurse, in Bosasso, the main port in the breakaway state of Puntland that abuts the Gulf of Aden.

"They have been released," said Bile Mohamud Qabowsade, an official from the Puntland information ministry.

"They are morally and physically well. Their health is very good," the official said, adding that the two women, employed by Medecins Sans Frontieres [Doctors Without Borders] were transferred to a Bosasso hotel.

"They are free now... and they are in a hotel in Bosasso in the presence of the president of Puntland and other top local officials," Qabowsade added.

After the initial capture, Puntland police hunted down the kidnappers, sparking an exchange of fire which resulted in the arrest of two suspects but also sparked concern over the two hostages' health.

Local media reported that the captors were demanding 250,000 euros (US$367,000) to release the two but Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos told a news conference in Madrid that no ransom was paid.

"What this group of people was seeking was social and political limelight," he said, adding both women were in good health and would arrive in Spain late yesterday.

"They want to forget this very difficult week, but they wish to return," he said.

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