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Somali gunmen kidnap two more Western journalists

BOSASSO, Somalia (Reuters) - Somali gunmen kidnapped two Western journalists in the northern province of Puntland on Wednesday, police said, in the latest attack on foreigners working in the lawless Horn of Africa nation.

Immersed in civil conflict for the last 17 years, Somalia is one of the world’s most dangerous places for reporters.

“I think both the journalists are British but we shall investigate ... we are sending police to free them,” Puntland’s police spokesman Abshir Said Jama told Reuters.

Two freelancers, an Australian and a Canadian, are still being held after being seized in the capital Mogadishu in August. Foreign aid workers have also been increasingly targeted this year, with a string of assassinations and kidnappings.

Foreign journalists generally stay out of Somalia, leaving reporting on the ground to local journalists. But a few do still go in, usually hiring local militia to protect them.

In London, a Foreign Office spokesman could not confirm that Britons were involved in the kidnapping in Puntland: “We are checking these reports, but have no confirmation as yet.”

Kidnappers in Somalia are generally seeking ransom payments and seldom harm their hostages.

Islamist insurgents are facing off against the Somali government and its Ethiopian military allies in the south, but Puntland in the north runs its affairs with relative autonomy.

Gangs flourish there, however, and Puntland has become a major base for piracy.

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