OTTAWA – Two Canadian aid workers are safe and sound Monday after they were rescued along with two colleagues from abductors by Somalian and Kenyan troops.
Canadians Steve Dennis, 37, and Qurat-Ul-Ain Sadazai, 38, along with Glenn Costes, 40, from the Philippines, and Astrid Sehl, 33, from Norway, were kidnapped by gunmen Friday in a brazen attack in the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya.
All four worked for the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), which released a joint statement from their families Monday confirming the missing men had been rescued.
“We also want to express our gratitude for all the support, help and warm thoughts we have received during this very trying time,” it said.
Jean-Bruno Villeneuve, a spokesman with Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada, said, “We are elated by the safe rescue of Canadian citizens taken hostage in Kenya. The High Commission in Nairobi will be providing them all the support they require.”
“The Government of Canada would also like to acknowledge the dedication and sacrifice of humanitarian workers, such as those at the Norwegian Refugee Council, who put themselves in harm’s way to improve the lives of millions of people around the world,” Villeneuve said in a statement.
Two other members of the convoy were injured in the attack and a Kenyan driver, Abdi Ali, was shot and killed.
Elisabeth Rasmusson, the NRC’s secretary general, expressed condolences to Ali’s family.
“The attack in Dadaab will stand as a tragic incident in NRC’s history,” she said.
The four aid workers were being held hostage inside Somalia and were rescued when Somalian government soldiers stopped a vehicle near the Kenyan border carrying supplies for the kidnappers on Sunday, Reuters news agency reported.
The troops seized the occupants, who directed them to the hostages.
Kenyan military spokesman Colonel Cyrus Oguna said the two armies launched a joint operation over the weekend after learning the four aid workers were being held near the border.
Oguna said the four men were unharmed but exhausted.
The Dadaab refugee camp is the world’s largest, with over 460,000 residents. Most are Somalis who fled the ongoing civil war in their country and widespread food shortages in the region.
The security situation in the camp has been a growing concern in recent months.
Last October, two Spanish aid workers with Doctors Without Borders were kidnapped from Dadaab and are still being held in Somalia. Last fall, Kenya sent troops into Somalia to help fight the Islamist al Shabaab militant group, which is feared to have infiltrated the camp.