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Italian nuns kidnapped in Kenya

Map of Kenya and Somalia

Suspected Somali gunmen have kidnapped two Italian nuns in Kenya and taken them over the border to Somalia, officials and witnesses have said.

The nuns were taken during a pre-dawn raid in the border town of El Wak, about 400 miles (645km) north-east of the capital, Nairobi, reports said.

The Kenyan Red Cross said the gunmen escaped in three hijacked vehicles.

Somalia has been without a functioning government since 1991. Islamist rebels are in control of much of the country.

It was not immediately clear who had carried out the kidnapping.

North-eastern Kenya is inhabited by ethnic Somalis, and there are frequent clashes over access to land and water in the area.

In Somalia, armed gangs have kidnapped and killed a number of aid workers, while there have also been repeated attacks on Catholic targets.

There were conflicting reports about the circumstances of the nuns' kidnapping.

A local aid worker was quoted as saying the nuns had been taken in the midst of a shoot-out at a church, while the Kenyan Red Cross said the women had been taken hostage at their home.

Kenyan police said they were collaborating with Somali elders over the incident, AFP news agency reported.

The Italian foreign ministry said it was also working to secure the release of the Catholic nuns, adding that the papal nuncio in Kenya was involved.

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