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Somali Kidnappers Release 2 Italian Nuns

  • Sabina Castelfranco

Two Italian nuns kidnapped by Somali gunmen in Kenya last November have been released. The Vatican welcomed the news with "great joy."

Somali gunmen had abducted Catholic missionaries Caterina Giraudo and Maria Teresa Olivero November 10 after a raid on the northeastern Kenyan border town of El Wak. The two were freed overnight in Somalia and then flown to Kenya and are said to be in good health.

Speaking by phone from the Italian Embassy in Nairobi, Sister Giraudo said "thank God, we are well. Only yesterday, we were in a terrible condition but today we are well, we have resuscitated. We have no words to thank the people we found upon our arrival."

Sister Olivero also said they were both well and very, very happy to be in Kenya.

Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said, "We had been praying for them for months." He added that "all the other hostages" worldwide should not be forgotten.

Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi also said he was happy to learn of their release.

Italy's ambassador to Kenya, Pierandrea Magistrati, said the nuns were safe. He called it "a great day" but did not give any details on their release, which is believed to have taken place late Wednesday evening.

The nuns, who belong to the Contemplative Missionary Movement of Father de Foucauld, had been living for over 20 years in Kenya, where they worked at El Wak's small medical center to help the disabled and those suffering from epilepsy and tuberculosis.

Kenyan sources initially said that the armed bandits were Somali fundamentalist guerrillas, but other reports suggested they could be connected to feuding local communities where violence has escalated in recent weeks.

Kidnappings of humanitarian aid workers are increasingly frequent in the war-torn East African nation. Two Somalis working for the U.N's World Food program were shot dead in southern Somalia last month.

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