MOGADISHU (Reuters) - Six people were killed in central Somalia in a gunfight over a supposed ransom payment tied to the release this week of a German-U.S. journalist held hostage in Somalia for more than two years, police said on Thursday.
The journalist, Michael Scott Moore, 45, was kidnapped by armed militia in the city of Galkayo in January 2012 while researching a book on piracy. After his release this week, local Somali officials said they were not unaware of any ransom paid.
A local militiaman, Zakaria Farah, told Reuters the ransom had totaled $2 million although he did not say who had made the payment. He played down the shooting, calling it “accidental,” and said any issues surrounding the payment had been resolved.
German officials confirmed Moore’s release on Tuesday but declined to give further details. The Foreign Ministry was not immediately available for comment on Thursday. U.S. officials say they do not make ransom payments for hostages.
Colonel Mohamed Aden, a senior police officer, told Reuters by telephone from Galkayo police believe the people involved in the abduction and Thursday’s shootout were relatives.
“We do not know how much ransom they took but we understand they fought before they divided the cash,” he said.
Piracy, once a scourge off Somalia’s Indian Ocean coast, has been reduced dramatically over the last two years due to increased international naval patrols and the presence of well-armed security teams on ships.
Additional reporting by Alexandra Hudson in Berlin; Writing by Edith Honan; Editing by Mark Heinrich