BOSASSO, Somalia (Reuters) - Kidnappers in Somalia’s northern Puntland region on Wednesday freed two female aid workers from the Spanish branch of Medecins sans Frontieres (MSF), Puntland’s trade minister said.
“The two MSF workers have been released by their abductors and they are now in a hotel in Bosasso,” Trade Minister Abdisamad Yusuf Abwan told Reuters.
Spanish doctor Mercedes Garcia and Argentine nurse Pilar Bauza Moreno were seized by gunmen on December 26 in Bosasso, a northern Somali port, while driving to a hospital in the semi-autonomous region.
Speaking on a Spanish radio station, Spain’s Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos denied a ransom had been paid.
“No, no. There have been a lot of negotiations, a lot of persuasion,” he said. “The Somali authorities have helped us a lot, both the prime minister and the president of Puntland.”
Moratinos said Garcia wanted to return to her aid work.
“She told me that she wants to return to Mogadishu, to Somalia. That shows the personal and ethical commitment, the enormous commitment of this Spanish aid worker.”
Argentine Foreign Minister Jorge Taiana spoke to Bauza Moreno after her release and she told him she was “happy, in good spirits and tired,” a government statement said.
Relatives told reporters she may travel to Spain before returning home to Buenos Aires.
Somali kidnappers generally treat their victims well, seeing them as investments that normally bring ransoms in return.
MSF Spain withdrew its foreign staff from southern Somalia on Tuesday as a precaution after the abductions in Puntland, which used to enjoy a reputation for relative stability compared to the rest of the anarchic Horn of Africa nation.
Additional reporting by Aweys Yusuf in Mogadishu, Raquel Castillo in Madrid and Damian Wroclavsky in Buenos Aires; Editing by Janet Lawrence