Two Spanish aid workers kidnapped almost two years ago in Kenya and then held in Somalia have been freed, their employer Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said on Thursday.
Montserrat Serra and Blanca Thiebaut, 40 and 30 respectively at the time of their kidnapping from the Dadaab refugee complex near the border with Somalia in October 2011, are both “safe and healthy,” MSF said.
“Both are safe and healthy and keen to join their loved ones as soon as possible,” the medical charity said, without disclosing when they were released or how.
Serra and Thiebaut, both logisticians, were seized by armed men in the Ifo camp in Dadaab, where they were working on the construction of a hospital, and immediately driven across the border.
Kenyan police said they had been taken by members of Somalia’s Islamist al-Shabaab group, but no group has claimed the kidnapping. MSF, which at the time of the kidnapping had 49 foreign and 343 local staff in Dadaab, reduced its activity there to a minimum.
The world’s largest refugee camp, Dadaab is home to about 450,000 refugees, most of whom fled drought and war in Somalia.
The abduction of the Spaniards followed the kidnapping of a French and a British woman from the Kenyan coast near the Somalian border.
Briton Judith Tebbutt, in her late fifties, was seized from a remote Kenyan resort on Sept. 11, 2011, by armed men who killed her husband, David. She was released in March last year after being held for more than six months, reportedly after her son paid a ransom.
Marie Dedieu, 66 and partially paralyzed, was seized from her beachfront home in the Lamu archipelago on Oct. 1, 2011.
She was reported dead later the same month, with French officials saying her death was probably due to her having been deprived of essential medication.
Just days after the two Spaniards were seized, Kenya rolled tanks and troops across the border to fight the al-Shabaab.
MSF immediately distanced itself from that operation.
On Oct. 25, 2011, two aid workers with Danish Refugee Council were seized by armed men in Galkayo in north-central Somalia.
They were freed in a raid by US commandos last year in January.
The Kenyan troops were officially integrated into the African Union force in Somalia, AMISOM, last year in early June.
Kenya is aiming to establish a buffer zone on the Somalian side of the Kenya-Somalia border, notably in order to protect its lucrative tourism industry.