ADDIS ABABA (AFP) — Somali President Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed said Tuesday all steps were being taken to free two foreign journalists and their local fixer seized in the war-riven country at the weekend.
"We are undertaking every possible measure for their release, including negotiations. We are confident that they will be released very soon," Yusuf told AFP in Addis Ababa.
Australian Nigel Brennan and Canadian Amanda Lindhout, who arrived in Somalia on August 20, and their Somali fixer were abducted on the road from the capital Mogadishu to Afgoye, where they intended to visit refugee camps.
Earlier, media freedom watchdog Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) urged the Somali government and Islamist militia to ensure the safety of the journalists.
The New York-based group said it was "deeply concerned about the safety of (the) three journalists and their driver."
"Somalia continues to be the most dangerous place for local and foreign journalists in Africa," the CPJ's Africa Programme coordinator Tom Rhodes said.
"CPJ calls on both the transitional government and the Islamic Courts Union to adhere to their public statements to do everything possible to ensure the safe release of these media workers."
The CPJ said it had received information that the trio could have been moved to Jowhar, a town 50 miles (90 kilometres) north of the capital Mogadishu.
French media rights watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has said it was worried about the abduction and called for caution.
"Prudence is required in Somalia, where the situation is complex and journalists and humanitarian aid workers are often abducted by militias acting with very diverse motives," it said in a statement.
A security official at a hotel near the incident, about 25 kilometres (15 miles) west of Mogadishu, said the journalists were seized at gunpoint.
Journalists and humanitarian workers are frequently abducted in Somalia, a country torn apart by civil war since 1991. Most kidnappings include ransom demands.
There has been mounting unrest in Somalia since Ethiopian troops ousted the Islamist militia that had controlled large parts of the Horn of Africa country in 2006.
Ethiopian troops rolled into Somalia, which has lacked an effective government since 1991, in late 2006 at the bequest of the embattled transitional administration.
The Islamists have reverted to guerrilla warfare and have been targeting Somali government forces, Ethiopian troops and African Union peacekeepers almost daily.
The clashes have displaced hundreds of thousands of people and killed more than 6,000 people last year alone.
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