Page last updated at 16:56 GMT, Thursday, 19 February 2009

Kidnapped Italian nuns released


Two Italian nuns kidnapped in Kenya in November and then held in neighbouring Somalia have been freed.

Gunmen snatched Maria Teresa Olivero, 67, and Caterina Giraudo, 60, from the northern Kenyan district of Mandera and took them across the border.

The women had been working on hunger and health programmes.

The two Roman Catholic nuns are at the Italian embassy Kenyan capital Nairobi, from where Sister Giraudo told Sky Italia TV: "We are very happy."

Speaking by telephone to the channel, she added: "We were treated well, we are fine... they gave us what was necessary."

Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi had earlier confirmed their release to reporters, saying: "Their morale is up."

The Vatican, which had expressed concern about the nuns' fate following their abduction on 10 November, said it welcomed the news of their release with "great joy".

The two, who had lived in Kenya for years, were snatched at the border town of El Wak, about 400 miles (645km) north-east of Nairobi.

It is not clear who was behind the abductions.

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.

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

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