January 4, 2009 / 4:14 PM / 10 years ago

Somali kidnappers release Westerners

BOSASSO, Somalia (Reuters) - Somali kidnappers have freed two foreign journalists abducted last November in the northern port of Bosasso, local officials said on Sunday.

British correspondent Colin Freeman sits at his hotel in Bosasso, Janary 4, 2009. Somali kidnappers have freed two journalists, Freeman and Spanish photographer Jose Cendon, a government official said on Sunday. REUTERS/Abdiqani Hassan Mahamud

Briton Colin Freeman, a correspondent for the Sunday Telegraph, and Spanish freelance photographer Jose Cendon were seized in November as they left a hotel in the town.

“They treated us well and we are now safe,” Freeman told Reuters. “I am only tired and I am very eager to see my family.”

The Spanish Foreign Ministry confirmed Cendon was alive and well.

“Mr Cendon has been freed and is safe and well, the foreign minister has spoken to him and his family,” a spokesman said.

An official in the northern semi-autonomous province of Puntland said the two were released through the efforts of local elders.

“The two European journalists were freed without any payment of a ransom,” Abdullahi Said Samatar, Puntland’s security minister, told Reuters.

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

Somalia is one of the most hazardous countries in the world for reporters. Two freelance journalists, an Australian and a Canadian, were seized in the capital Mogadishu in August and are still held.

The few foreign correspondents who venture into the country usually hire local militias to protect them.

Foreign aid workers have been the targets of a series of assassinations and kidnappings in the past year.

The country has been plagued by civil conflict for 17 years. The government is fighting an Islamist insurgency and the lack of security has led to a surge in piracy off the coast.

Islamists are fighting the Somali government in the south but Puntland in the north runs its affairs with relative autonomy. Gangs flourish there, however, and Puntland has become a base for pirates.

Reporting by Abdiqani Hassan; writing by Helen Nyambura-Mwaura; editing by Andrew Dobbie

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