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Page last updated at 17:32 GMT, Tuesday, 5 August 2008 18:32 UK

Italian hostages freed in Somalia

Italian aid worker Jolanda Occhipinti in Somalia (Picture dated 2003)
The attack took place on 21 May in the village of Awdhigle

Two Italian aid workers kidnapped in Somalia in May have been freed and are in good health, Italy's foreign minister said.

Iolanda Occhipinti and Giuliano Paganini were being flown to the Kenyan capital, Nairobi.

The pair were seized by armed gunmen during an attack on the offices of Italian aid agency Cooperazione Italiana Nord Sud in southern Somalia.

It was not clear if a ransom was paid to secure their release.

A Somali man, who was the head of the agency, was abducted at the same time but there was no immediate word on his fate.

Failed peace talks

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

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.

Somalia 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, including UN-brokered talks in June between the government and the main opposition alliance.


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