Page last updated at 10:42 GMT, Wednesday, 21 May 2008 11:42 UK

Aid workers abducted in Somalia

People leave Mogadishu
Tens of thousands have fled the fighting in Mogadishu

Two Italian aid workers and a Somali colleague have been kidnapped by gunmen south of the Somali capital, Mogadishu.

Dozens of armed gunmen attacked the offices of Italian aid agency Cooperazione Italiana Nord Sud in the village of Awdhigle.

The BBC's Mohamed Olad Hassan says it is not clear who was behind the attack.

Somali insurgents vowed to target foreign aid workers after a US air strike killed the head of the al-Shabab militant group this month.

Al-Shabab is the militant wing of the UIC, which ruled much of Somalia in 2006 before being ousted by Ethiopian forces backed by Somali government troops

"It was a pre-dawn attack. The gunmen blindfolded the guards of the office and took two Italian aid workers, a woman and a man, and also the Somali man who was the head of the agency was taken with them," eyewitness Salah Sheikh Muhidin told the BBC.

Two aid workers, a Briton and a Kenyan, who were abducted in southern Somalia last month are still missing.

Ethiopian soldiers in Somalia
Al-Shabab is fighting for Ethiopian troops to leave Somalia

Meanwhile, a government spokesman has confirmed to the BBC that a checkpoint 14km south of Mogadishu was ambushed by insurgents overnight.

Four government soldiers were killed and two civilians in nearby vehicles were injured in the attack.

Somali has been devastated by conflict since 1991 when former president Mohamed Siad Barre was ousted.

At least a dozen peace initiatives have collapsed since then.

The latest talks, held this month in neighbouring Djibouti, ended without face-to-face discussions between the government and the main opposition alliance.

The warring parties decided to meet again in Djibouti for further talks on 31 May.

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