Police in Puntland, the semi-autonomous region of northern Somalia, are searching for journalists who were kidnapped in the port city of Boosaaso. As Derek Kilner
reports from VOA's East Africa bureau in Nairobi, two European journalists, along with two Somali journalists, were abducted on Wednesday, after reporting on piracy in the area.

The reporters* were abducted by unidentified gunmen as they left the International Village hotel in Boosaaso, for their airport on Wednesday.

The journalists had been in Somalia for the past week, reporting on the activities of pirates in the area and were preparing to leave the country.  

Puntland's presidential media advisor, Bile Mohamoud Qabowsade, told VOA that the journalists were traveling without armed security guards.

He said he had told the Somali fixers before the journalists arrived that it would be difficult to guarantee the journalists' safety without additional security. They had obtained security guards but had let them go before traveling to the airport. He said the police and other security services are working hard to locate the journalists and secure their release.

Foreign journalists and aid workers have been prominent targets for kidnappers in Somalia, who are generally looking for ransom payments. Over a dozen foreigners have been abducted in Somalia this year, a particularly high figure given that the number of foreigners operating in the country has steadily declined over the past two years. Earlier this month, two Italian nuns were kidnapped from a town on the border between Somalia and Kenya.

Puntland had long escaped much of the violence that has plagued southern and central Somalia, but security has deteriorated in the past year. Six people were killed in twin suicide bombings in Bosasso in October.

Meanwhile over 200 crew members - most of them foreigners - are being held on hijacked ships off the coast of Somalia. The seized vessels include a Saudi Arabian tanker carrying over $100 million worth of oil, and a Ukrainian ship carrying over 30 military tanks.

Security in Somalia has steadily declined since the latest insurgency, pitting Islamist rebels against the struggling, internationally-backed transitional government, and its Ethiopian allies, began in January 2007.

On Wednesday, the transitional government signed an agreement to share power with a moderate Islamist faction, the Alliance for the Re-Liberation of Somalia. But the more radical al-Shabab faction has rejected the deal and vowed to continue fighting. 

* 28 Nov 08 - Names withdrawn for safety concerns