Monday, February 23, 2009

Somali Militia Release Kidnapped Italian Nuns

Sisters Maria Teresa Oliviero, 61, and Caterina Giruado, 67, abducted four months ago by Somalia-based militia have been released and were in good health at the Italian Embassy in Nairobi on Thursday afternoon.

The two Italian Catholic nuns were abducted from Elwak, Mandera in North Eastern Province by suspected Al Shabaab militia.

Details of their release are still sketchy but sources privy to the incident said their abductors had demanded that one of three suspected al Qaeda members arrested by Kenyan security forces at the height of the Ethiopian incursion into Somalia be released in return for the nuns.

The abductors crossed into Kenya on the morning of November 9, 2008, fired grenades at the Elwak police post before attacking Elwak Catholic parish and kidnapping the nuns. The sisters had been working there since the 1970s.

Good health

The attackers also stormed Elwak guest house and Lala Salama lodge and robbed a magistrate of a laptop computer, wrist watch and cash. Two police officers lost their jungle uniforms in the raids.

The abductors escaped in two government vehicles. Sister Gianna Benfatto of the Contemplative Missionary Movement of Father Charles de Foucauld in Nairobi confirmed the nuns' release.

Italian state television is reported by Associated Press to have interviewed one of the nuns by telephone, who confirmed that they were in good health.

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi also said the nuns were in high spirits at the Italian embassy in Nairobi. The nuns, members of the Little Sisters of Jesus order, were initially reported to be seven kilometres from the border but were later moved to Mogadishu.

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