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Western Journalists Kidnapped Outside Mogadishu

Two western journalists reported missing in the Somali capital Mogadishu are believed to have been kidnapped by militiamen. As VOA Correspondent Alisha Ryu reports from our East Africa Bureau in Nairobi, the journalists, along with a local interpreter and driver, were abducted on Saturday.

Media reports have identified the two missing journalists as Canadian freelance reporter Amanda Lindhout and Australian freelance photojournalist Nigel Brennan.

The pair had arrived in Mogadishu four days ago to report on the humanitarian crisis affecting millions of Somalis. According to Somalia's Shabelle Radio senior journalist Abdinassir Mohamed Guled, the journalists, accompanied by an interpreter and driver, traveled about 20 kilometers south to the town of Afgoye to visit camps housing hundreds of thousands of displaced Somalis.

"The journalists were reported to have been returning from the Afgoye IDP [internally displaced people] area, and men with firearms ordered the journalists to leave with them," said Guled.

Nobody has claimed responsibility, but reliable sources in Mogadishu tell VOA that the men who kidnapped the journalists appeared to have known the journalists' itinerary and followed them closely before ambushing their vehicle on the road Saturday morning.

The National Union of Somali Journalists reports that it received information early Sunday indicating that the four hostages may have been taken to the northeastern neighborhood of Suqa Holaha in Mogadishu.

Somalia has been torn apart by war since 1991, and is considered one of the most dangerous places in the world for journalists. Since 2005, nearly a dozen of them have been killed in Somalia, including two western journalists killed by fighters loyal to a militant al-Qaida-linked Islamist movement called the Shabab.

For the past 19 months, the Shabab, along with other Islamists and clan-based militiamen, have been waging a bloody insurgency against Somalia's unpopular transitional government and trying to force its main backer, Ethiopia, to withdraw its troops from Somalia.

The National Union of Somali Journalists says there are people on all sides of the current conflict, who do not want the outside world to know what is happening in Somalia, and are targeting and threatening journalists to silence them.