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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Italian Nuns Captured By Shabaab, Ransome Paid By The Vatican

This interesting and useful account of the abduction of Two Italian Nuns in Kenya by Shabaab, and their subsequent release comes from a February 2009 Newsletter.

-Shimron Issacahr

NAIROBI – Sister
Rinuccia Giraudo, 67, and Sister Maria Teresa Olivero, 61, two kidnapped Italian nuns belonging
to Fr Charles Foucauld’s Missionary Contemplative Movement, have been released.

They had been seized on 9 November at El Wak, a Kenyan town on the
border with Somalia. The news came directly from the Italian foreign ministry. Freedom came
during a confused military action as about 200 Somali militiamen in at least ten trucks entered the town around midnight.

At the head of the attack was Adbulkadir “Kommando”, a Muslim leader known to western
intelligence services. The raiders were looking for two Americans, officially employees of a human rights agency but in all likelihood intelligence agents on a mission to El Wak.

However, a radio warning signal had enabled the two to escape to safety as all hell broke loose in the town. When the raiders realised that their targets had got away, they attacked the police station, seizing weapons and three trucks.

The raiders were Somalis from the Garre and Habergidir clans. The Garre, who live in the border country and know El Wak well, were able to lead their companions to the judge’s home, wherethey stole everything they could, including documents and computers, and abducted the judge himself before continuing their noisy progress to the accompaniment of automatic weapon fire.

At a certain point, someone suggested looking for the two nuns. But Sister Rinuccia and
Sister Maria Teresa are prominent, well-regarded figures in El Wak who for many years have
been tending the sick, the hungry and the needy. Some attackers made protests, which were
overruled as it would have been unthinkable to return to Somalia empty-handed, which is why the two nuns were abducted.

Next morning, the furious Kenyans started organising a task force to
cross the border and get the nuns back. Intelligence sources in Nairobi say the Italian ambassador, Pierandrea Magistrati, rightly strove to cool their ardour. At a highly confidential meeting, he pointed out: “That’s the best way to get them killed. When the troops attack, the abductors will execute them”.

Negotiations between the Kenyans and Somalis got under way through the good offices of the elders, who know each other well. Talks eased tensions but failed to produce any results. One negotiator told the Corriere: “It’s true that some of the abductors were Garre but the group’s hard core came from Coriolei, near Merca, 40 kilometres south of Mogadishu”.

The name Abdulkadir “Kommando” emerged. He is a former Somali army officer, businessman, Islamist and military commander of the militant Sunni fundamentalists of the Jabhadda Islaamiga Soomaaliyeed (JABISO), theSomali Islamic Front. The group,
under the political guidance of Sheik Ahmed Abdillahi Omar, has been known since 2007 as
the armed wing of Al-I’tisaam Bil Kitaab Wa Sunna, the organisation
that took the place of the better-known Al-Itihaad Al-Islaami (AIAI). JABISO is closely
linked to the United Western Somalia Liberation Front (UWSLF), an Ethiopian group that opposes the Addis Ababa government in Ogaden, the Abyssinian province inhabited by Somalis.

There are UWSLF forces stationed in the former Italian-held Somalia to fight Ethiopian troops
that invaded the country in 2006 in support of the extremely weak federal transition government. Their base is Bardere, on the road from El Wak to Mogadishu, and that is where they took the nuns. To get to Bardere, you have to cross the Giuba river and there are at least three bridges. The Americans keep a discreet eye on them via satellite but a barge can slip across the river at night. A few days later, the group was off again, this time heading for Mogadishu, where Kommando’s Muslim guerrillas mingle on the southern outskirts of the
capital with the Shabaab (“youth” in Arabic), an ill-defined Muslim militia who are part bandits and part holy men.

– Political management of the abduction passed to Hassan Abdullahi Hersi, aka “Turki”,
and the ransom demand came as Italian intelligence sent a task force from Rome to liaise with
the Kenyans (the network of informers that Italy was envied for 20 years ago has been broken up).

The asking price was two million dollars and the release of several – probably four – terrorists arrested in two Kenyan operations, to which the Americans had contributed information.

  • The first took place last summer, when the Kenyans, backed up by American aircraft,
    penetrated Somali territory at Doblei and captured three Arabs.
  • Then in October and November, a second anti-insurgency operation in the El Wak area led to the arrest of another three alleged terrorists.

Negotiations were conducted in secret but sources at the American embassy told the Corriere that cash was not the only “currency” involved. American agents warned their Italian colleagues that you don’t cut deals with terrorists and the Vatican also stepped in. The rest is today’s news.

The two nuns have been released but what, and how much, was paid remains cloaked in mystery.

The Rest @ Giamando Italian American Newsletter

originally published in yahoo news:

Massimo A. Alberizzi 20 febbraio 2009
English translation by Giles

Article in Italian\-00144f02aabc.shtml

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