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Kidnapped French Woman Reportedly Taken to al-Shabab Part of Somalia

Undated photo of Marie Dedieu

Sources in Somalia say a French woman kidnapped from Kenya on Saturday has been taken to a Somali region controlled by al-Shabab militants.

Elders in the Somali town of Kismayo said Monday that Marie Dedieu is being held in a coastal area of the Lower Jubba region, of which Kismayo is the capital.

A group of gunmen kidnapped Dedieu from her beach house on Kenya's Manda island and took her by boat into Somalia after a gunbattle with Kenyan security forces.

The elders say talks to secure her release are underway between the kidnappers and individuals in Kenya. The kidnappers are said to be demanding a ransom.

Kenya's tourism minister Najib Balala told VOA Sunday that Kenya has sent mediators to Somalia to win Dedieu's freedom, either through a rescue operation or through negotiations.

It remains unclear whether the kidnappers are part of al-Shabab, Somali pirate gangs or are gunmen acting on their own.

Dedieu is a French national in her mid-60s. She uses a wheelchair, which the kidnappers did not take with them when they kidnapped her.

The kidnapping took place across a lagoon from Lamu island, a popular Kenyan resort near the spot where gunmen kidnapped a British woman earlier this month and shot her husband to death.

Reports from the area Monday said the majority of tourists have departed. Kenyan officials have promised to increase security in the area.

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