Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 21 December 2014

Aid worker tells of Somalia kidnap

British aid worker Frans Barnard was abducted by masked gunmen in Somalia (AP)
British aid worker Frans Barnard was abducted by masked gunmen in Somalia (AP)

A British aid worker abducted by masked gunmen in Somalia has spoken publicly about his ordeal for the first time.

Zimbabwe-born Frans Barnard, who was working for Save the Children, said he was kidnapped in less then seven minutes as he watched television.

He was released on Wednesday after being held for six days and was taken to safety in Nairobi, Kenya.

A spokesman for the charity said his release had been secured with the help of clan elders and no money had been involved.

Speaking at a press conference in Nairobi, Mr Barnard described being "rudely disturbed" after watching his very first episode of 24.

"There was quite a bit of activity - it all actually took place in probably under seven minutes," he said. "But the end of that seven minutes saw me having been taken out of my room, through the window and into a vehicle being driven away at breakneck speed."

Of his six-day ordeal in captivity, Mr Barnard said: "There were occasions where things were tense but overall I would say without any hesitation that they viewed me as a commodity and that as a commodity the more unscathed I was and the more undamaged I was the better for them as well."

Mr Barnard was taken from a guesthouse compound in Adado, a small town close to the border with Ethiopia, on Thursday night of last week. A Somali national who was also taken from the compound with him was released unharmed within hours.

The men were working with the charity as it carried out a feasibility assessment into setting up a programme to help sick and malnourished children and their families in the area.

Tensions have been running high in the lawless region, where armed forces include pirate gangs and factions of militias allied to the government. Kidnapping for ransom is not uncommon in the area, though hostages are usually released unharmed.

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