Briton held for 'spying' in Somalia
A British national has been arrested in the breakaway region of Puntland in Somalia over allegations of spying and illegally mining precious stones, according to reports.
News agency AFP quoted the semi-autonomous region's security minister Kalif Ise Mudan as saying one British and one French national had been detained.
The local news website Garowe Online reported that the two foreign nationals were accused of illegally mining precious materials and had been arrested in the Puntland capital of Garowe on November 14 following a three-month investigation into a company called Oversight International, which was registered as an NGO (non-governmental organisation) . Precious stones suspected to be illegally mined were allegedly seized along with computers, said the website.
It quoted Mr Mudan as saying: "The foreigners entered the region as local NGO workers but they were aiming to engage in intelligence-gathering activities and also to exploit our natural resources.
"Investigations are still underway because the arrest follows intelligence reports and now they are in breach of local authority conditions."
Two local employees were also arrested, the website said.
In London, the Foreign Office said: "We are aware of reports of the detention of a British national in Somalia (Puntland) and we are in touch with the Somali (Puntland) authorities."
The east African state of Somalia has not had a central government capable of exercising control over the entire territory since the start of a civil war in 1991, and various regions have sought to establish themselves as self-governing areas.
Puntland is an area in the north east of the country containing around a third of the Somali population. It declared itself an autonomous state in 1998 but is not seeking outright independence.