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Abductors release UNHCR's Mogadishu office chief unharmed

Abductors release UNHCR's Mogadishu office chief unharmed

Hassan Mohammed Ali, the head of UNHCR's office in Mogadishu, flies to Nairobi following his release after two months in captivity.
28 August 2008
UNHCR workers help internally displaced people (IDPs) in Somalia. Thousands of IDPs celebrated the release of Hassan Mohammed Ali, head of UNHCR's office in Mogadishu, who was abducted in June by unknown gunmen.

NAIROBI, Kenya, August 28 (UNHCR) - Hassan Mohammed Ali, head of the UN refugee agency's office in the Somali capital of Mogadishu, flew to Nairobi on Thursday following his release after two months in captivity. He was abducted near Mogadishu on June 21 by an unknown armed group.

Ali, who is popularly known as Keynaan, was found to be in good health on his release Wednesday afternoon, but he was taken to hospital on his arrival in the Kenyan capital.

"I am extremely happy to see all my friends and colleagues of UNHCR, and I am looking forward to be reunited with my family," Keynaan said in Nairobi. "This morning in Mogadishu, thousands of internally displaced persons gathered to celebrate my release. They were all around the UNHCR office. I was greeted by so many people, it was very emotional. They all told me how happy they were that I had been set free."

"We are taking all the necessary steps to ensure that he is reunited with his family as soon as possible," said a message sent earlier Thursday to staff from Deputy High Commissioner for Refugees L. Craig Johnstone and UNHCR Staff Council Chairman Guy Avognon.

UNHCR, in a public statement issued on Thursday, thanked "all Somali organizations and members of civil society who organized demonstrations to call for his release. We are also grateful for all the expressions of public support and solidarity received during the difficult weeks of his captivity."

The agency said it had continued to provide aid to displaced Somali civilians throughout this period and would continue to do so.

We extend our sympathies to aid workers who are still forcibly detained in Somalia. Abductions and attacks against humanitarian workers have increased over the past few months, jeopardizing the delivery of aid to vulnerable populations.

By Catherine Weibel in Nairobi, Kenya