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Somali Pirates Free British Hostage Held Since September

March 21, 2012

Gabe Joselow | Nairobi

A British woman held hostage for six months inside Somalia has been freed after a ransom was paid to her captors. The British Foreign Office said Wednesday she was being taken to a safe place.

Somali gunmen seized Judith Tebbutt, 56, in September last year from a secluded seaside resort in Kenya near the Somali border.

Kenyan police say her husband, David, was shot dead during the attack when he tried to resist. Judith, who relies on hearing aids, was then taken away in a speedboat by her kidnappers and was believed to be held captive in central Somalia.

But her long ordeal finally ended on Wednesday.

Media reports say Somali pirates surrendered Tebbutt to local authorities after receiving a ransom payment.

A spokesman for Somalia's Transitional Federal Government, Omar Osman, said the prime minister had been putting pressure on local groups to release Tebbutt, but said the TFG could only do so much with its limited political capacity.

“We hope that the international will realize that helping Somali institutions to rebuild is the only way out of the morass we are in in Somalia, and if we were ever to control the whole country we would not have all these people taken hostage to our territory,” he said.

A disabled French woman was kidnapped soon after Tebbutt in a similar attack in a nearby resort by suspected Somali gunmen. She died while being held hostage in Somalia.

Somali kidnappers also are believed to still be holding two Spanish aid workers abducted in October from the Dadaab refugee camps in northeastern Kenya.

The kidnappings were part of a spate of cross-border attacks last year that Kenya used as justification for a full-scaled military operation in Somalia targeting al-Shabab militants.

Al-Shabab has denied involvement in the kidnappings. Security analysts have said the abductions are more likely the work of pirates and other criminal gangs seeking money.

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