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Somalia: UN hails release of abducted staff member

Somalia: UN hails release of abducted staff member

The United Nations today welcomed the release of a UN staffer who had been abducted in Somalia earlier this month and held in captivity for five days.

The Office of the UN Security Coordinator in Somalia issued a statement confirming that Abdulkadir Mohamed Abikar, a national project staff member, is in good health. He had been kidnapped on 5 August and was freed two days ago.

Mr. Abikar has been reunited with his family and is scheduled to resume his duties as the Officer in Charge of the Mogadishu office of the UN Food and Agricultural Organization's (FAO) food security assessment unit, according to the statement.

The Security Coordinator's Office took the occasion to strongly condemn abductions and other attacks on staff members of the UN, which is in Somalia with a humanitarian mandate to help the country's people.

In a related development, the UN Resident Coordinator for Somalia today called attention to the impact of violence and insecurity on the country's humanitarian situation.

"I am gravely concerned by the recent outbreaks of fighting, which continue to disrupt the delivery of humanitarian assistance to Somalis already facing acute poverty, malnutrition and the lack of access to even the most basic social services," said Maxwell Gaylard. "The fighting is also thwarting UN, NGO [non-governmental organization] and civil society efforts to protect vulnerable communities caught in areas of conflict."

Mr. Gaylard cited reports that in Baidoa, some 20 civilians, mainly women and children, and an equal number of militia members from both sides, were killed recently during intense factional fighting which ended two years of relative peace in the area. Additionally, fierce clashes in the northeast earlier this month reportedly left more than 100 militia members from both sides dead, while that battle effectively cut off humanitarian access to most Somalis in the northeastern tip of the country. The recent wave of kidnappings in Mogadishu has severely curtailed the UN's ability to assist approximately 150,000 people.

"In recent months, inter- and intra-factional fighting and the abduction of UN workers have clearly presented the greatest obstacles to the delivery of humanitarian and development assistance to the Somali people," said Mr. Gaylard. "Parties to conflict, and others in positions of authority, must take greater responsibility for the lives and welfare of their fellow citizens by immediately ceasing hostilities and demonstrating their full support for reconciliation and peace-building."