Gunmen kidnap German nurse from ICRC in Somali capital

MOGADISHU (Reuters) - Unidentified gunmen kidnapped a German nurse from the International Committee of the Red Cross in the Somali capital, Mogadishu, on Wednesday night, police and the ICRC said.

Abductions and killings of Somali aid workers are common in the Horn of Africa country, but targeting foreign workers has become less frequent in recent years as security has improved.

“We got the report minutes after she was abducted and now we are searching the whole area. We hope we shall find her,” Major Mohamed Hussein, a police officer, told Reuters.

The ICRC said in a statement the abduction occurred around 8 pm (1700 GMT) on Wednesday.

The nurse, Sonja Nientiet, has worked for the ICRC since 2014 in conflict zones, including Syria and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

This week in Mogadishu, she had been delivering first aid training for local responders, the IRCR said. She also cared for Somalis at hospitals, health clinics and places of detention, the ICRC said.

“She is a nurse who spends her days caring for vulnerable people in Somalia -- the sick, the wounded. She’s a true humanitarian,” said Crystal Wells, ICRC’s spokeswoman in Nairobi.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the abduction.

The Swiss-based agency, which has provided humanitarian aid in Somalia for years, said it was in touch with a range of authorities.

Germany’s Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said at a news conference in the Ethiopian capital on Thursday that the government could not comment on the case.

The organization’s staff had earlier told Reuters that the kidnappers snatched their colleague from inside their compound in Mogadishu and took her out through a back door, avoiding security guards stationed at the main entrance.

Residents said the district where the abduction occurred was quickly sealed off by police and other security forces.

Somalia has suffered lawlessness since 1991, when warlords ousted dictator Siad Barre and then turned on each other. Major armed conflict has abated in recent years, but al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab militants still regularly launch attacks.

On Tuesday, unidentified gunmen shot dead a Somali World Health Organization employee in Mogadishu.

A relative of the victim identified her as Maryan Abdullahi and said she was targeted while visiting the Bakara market in the capital to buy items for her wedding next week. The motive for the shooting was not clear and the gunmen escaped.

Reporting by Abdi Sheikh, writing by Omar Mohammed and Maggie Fick, editing by Larry King