By: Tinsley Tullos
Somali-militants from al-Shabab are believed to be responsible for the attack and kidnapping of a disabled 66-year-old Frenchwoman at her holiday bungalow in Rat Kiatsu. Officials also have reason to believe that the attack occurred on Kenya’s northern resort island of Manda and was then taken to Somalia. The gunmen struck Rat Kiatsu at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday.
“An elderly, disabled French lady who has been living in Manda Island in her own house was abducted by 10 heavily armed Somali bandits suspected to be al-Shabab operatives from Ras Chiamboni in Somalia, near the Kenyan border,” a Kenyan government official statement said. This attack comes just three weeks after a similar attack on a UK couple just north of this area in Kiwayu. After her husband David Tebbutt was shot and killed by gunmen, Judith Tebbutt was kidnapped and taken to the popular destination of Somalia.
Local legislator, Aba Chiaba, said that the crew came onto the island of Manda overnight by boat. This boat, later used to transport the victims, was involved in a shootout in which Kenyan ships tried to stop the gunmen. Although a resolute attempt, the incident resulted only in the injury of two men. Residents and workers of the Rat Kiatsu resort were startled after two gunshots were heard when the woman was quickly taken away. “The elderly French woman is well known in the area, she comes to Manda regularly,” Mr. Chiaba said. According to Internal Security Minister George Saitoti, two coastguard vessels and a police helicopter then proceeded to chase the abductors and exchange fire.
Somalia’s borders were sealed after every effort was made by Kenya’s Tourism Minister, Najib Balala, to rescue the kidnapped woman. “The core problem is Somalia and the core problem is criminal elements who manage to sneak into the country,” he told the BBC. Balala, still concerned with the woman’s safety, identified her as Marie Deidiu.
While the rescue is yet to be successful, the government says they have instilled “adequate safety measures.” The French Foreign Ministry is working closely with Kenyan authorities, who have mobilized air and sea resources, in order to rescue the French captive. Frenchmen have been advised to refrain from traveling to various parts of Kenya.