Africa

Spanish MSF doctors seized near Kenya-Somali border

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Media captionThe BBC's Nawaz Shah says it is unclear who kidnapped the MSF doctors

Gunmen have kidnapped two Spanish doctors working for the medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) near Kenya's border with Somalia.

The two women were seized from the Dadaab refugee camp, which houses hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing famine in the Horn of Africa.

Their Kenyan driver was wounded and is now in hospital, MSF say.

In recent weeks, two other foreign women - one English, the other French - have been kidnapped near the border.

Kenyan police told the BBC they were pursuing the kidnappers towards the Somali border by road and by air. They say the border has been sealed.

Al-Shabab?

"We strongly condemn this attack", said Jose Antonio Bastos, president of MSF in Spain.

"MSF is in contact with all the relevant authorities and is doing all it can to ensure the swift and safe return of our colleagues.

"Meanwhile, our thoughts are with them and with their families in this difficult time".

MSF has set up a crisis team but says it will not provide any further information for the moment in order to ensure a rapid and safe resolution.

The attack happened near the Ifo camp, one of three areas that make up Dadaab, just 80km (50 miles) from the Somali border. In all, Dadaab now houses 450,000 refugees, making it the equivalent of Kenya's third-largest city.

Security in and around Dadaab is notoriously bad.

It is not yet clear who was behind this latest kidnapping.

The Islamist al-Shabab group controls much of southern Somalia but usually denies allegations of involvement in such cases.

The BBC's Bashkash Jugsodaay, at Dadaab, has seen two helicopters heading towards the Kenya-Somalia border.

It is unclear whether the al-Shabab or bandits were behind the attack, our reporter says.

Refugees told our reporter that bandits - armed with AK-47 rifles - often enter the camp at night, robbing them of their belongings.

The UN has declared a famine in six regions of Somalia, most of them under the control of al-Shabab.

The region is experiencing its worst drought in more than half a century.

Al-Shabab, which is affiliated with al-Qaeda and controls large swathes of south and central Somalia, had imposed a ban on foreign aid agencies in its territories in 2009.

However, it has recently allowed limited access.

The autumn rains have now begun in Mogadishu, alleviating the drought. Thousands of people have arrived in the Somali capital in recent weeks, fleeing food shortages.

Last month, 56-year-old Briton Judith Tebbutt was kidnapped by gunmen from a remote Kenyan resort at Kiwayu. Her husband David was killed. Mrs Tebbutt is believed to be held by al-Shabab in Somalia.

On 1 October, a 66-year-old French woman was seized by an armed gang on Kenya's northern resort island of Manda and taken to Somalia.

And a Kenyan driver working for the Care charity was abducted from Dadaab on 21 September.

The UK Foreign Office has advised against all but essential travel to the Kenyan coast near the Somali border.

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