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Gunmen Seize Chief of UN Refugee Agency's Somalia Operations


The U.N. refugee agency says a group of armed Somali gunmen have kidnapped the local head of its Somalia operations from his home outside Mogadishu.

U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees spokeswoman Millicent Mutuli said Sunday that the unknown gunmen took the employee from his home late Saturday.

Witnesses say at least six gunmen broke into Hassan Mohamed Ali's home in Elasha, 17 kilometers south of Mogadishu, and abducted him.

No one has claimed responsibility for the kidnapping.

There have been a number of attacks against humanitarian groups in Somalia recently. Earlier this year, Doctors Without Borders pulled its 87 foreign employees out of the country after three of them were killed in a land mine explosion that the organization described as ''probably premeditated.''

In April, a Briton and a Kenyan working for a U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization-backed project were abducted as they traveled toward the town of Buale in Somalia's southern Juba region. The men were employed by an Indian company (Genesys International Corporation) contracted by the FAO.

Bandits, militias and fighting between the government and Islamist fighters have made it increasingly dangerous for aid groups to operate in the country.

The fighting has killed thousands of Somalis and displaced more than a million others. Aid agencies have warned repeatedly that Somalia is near a humanitarian disaster.

On Friday, UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres called Somalia "the most dramatic humanitarian crisis in the world."

Earlier this month, the government and opposition leaders in exile signed a cease-fire agreement in Djibouti. But hard-line Islamist leaders and the insurgent group, al-Shabab, rejected the deal.

Somalia has not had a functioning government since 1991 when warlords overthrew dictator Mohamed Siad Barre and began fighting each other.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.

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