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Two Spanish aid workers kidnapped in Kenyan refugee camp

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REPORTING FROM JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA -- Gunmen on Thursday abducted two Spanish women working for Doctors Without Borders in Kenya’s sprawling Dadaab refugee camp, the world’s biggest, which has been swamped lately by desperate Somalis fleeing famine.

Their Kenyan driver was shot in the neck after the gunmen hijacked their vehicle, according to news reports.

A statement from the aid group provided few details but said the driver had been hospitalized and was in stable condition. The Spanish Foreign Ministry confirmed the nationality of the missing women.

“A crisis team has been set up to deal with this incident,” the statement from Doctors Without Borders said.

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The kidnappers were believed to have come from Kenya’s lawless and chaotic northern neighbor, Somalia, which also has been a base for pirates kidnapping seamen for ransom.

The abductions came just weeks after Somali gunmen kidnapped two foreigners and killed one in two incidents on Kenya’s northern coast.

Kenyan police chief Leo Nyongesa told the Associated Press that authorities were tracking the kidnappers by road and air, and that the northern border post to Somalia had been closed.

“We are tracking them down,” Nyongesa said.

Kenyan authorities also gave chase Oct. 1, when Somali gunmen kidnapped a Frenchwoman, Marie Dedieu, 66, from her home in the Lamu resort area, but on that occasion they failed to stop the gang. There has been no word from her.

Analysts say that Somali gangs looking for ransom payments have turned to softer abduction targets after tighter international policing of the seas has cut piracy. But the motives for Thursday’s attack on aid workers were not clear.

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-- Robyn Dixon


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