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Tuesday, 7 May, 2002, 13:07 GMT 14:07 UK
UN stops work in Somali capital
Weapons on sale at a Mogadishu market
There is no shortage of weapons in Mogadishu
The United Nations has suspended all activities in the Somali capital, Mogadishu, because of the continued detention of a UN official kidnapped more than a week ago.

The official, Mohamed Ali Abukar, of the UN Development Programme (UNDP), was seized by gunmen on his way home in south Mogadishu on 28 April.

We don't negotiate and we don't pay ransoms

Maxwell Gaylard
The motive for the kidnap is not known, but the head of the UNDP in Somalia, Maxwell Gaylard, said all efforts to arrange for Mr Abukar's release had been unsuccessful.

Since Somalia descended into clan warfare following the overthrow of Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991, abductions have been used by gunmen to extract ransom money.

Mr Gaylard told the BBC's Focus on Africa that a programme to eradicate polio would be one of those hit by the decision, which, he said "had not been taken lightly".

Mr Abukar suffers from high blood pressure and Mr Gaylard said he did not think that he had his medication with him.


Mr Abukar is the second UN official kidnapped by gunmen in Mogadishu this year.

In February, a Somali representative of the UN children's Fund, Unicef, was picked up by unidentified gunmen and released later.

Gunmen in the Somali capital
Militiamen are everywhere in Mogadishu

The family said it paid no ransom, but AFP news agency quotes unnamed militia sources as saying money had changed hands before his release.

"We don't negotiate and we don't pay ransoms," said Mr Gaylard.

In a report published three months ago, UN Secretary general Kofi Annan said Somalia remained one of the most dangerous environments in which the UN operates, and that the security situation did not allow for a long-term presence.

The report was based on the findings of a security mission which went to Somalia in January, about 18 months after the fledgling interim government was set up.

In September 2001, the UN withdrew its international staff from Mogadishu because insurance companies refuse to insure flights in the wake of the attacks on the United States earlier that month.

The BBCs' David Chazan
"Kidnapping for ransom has become almost routine"
See also:

28 Feb 02 | Africa
Aid worker kidnapped in Somalia
26 Feb 02 | Africa
Mogadishu racked by clan fighting
24 Jan 02 | Africa
Arms banned on Mogadishu streets
29 Dec 01 | Africa
Nine die in Mogadishu clash
24 Sep 01 | Africa
UN pulls out of Somalia
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