Aid workers kidnapped from Kenya camp released

"We are back, we are alive and we are happy this is ended," said Qurat-Ul-Ain Sadazai

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Four aid workers seized from a refugee camp near Kenya's Somali border have been released and are safe after an operation by Kenyan and Somali forces.

The Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) said it was "relieved" its staff were free. It also paid tribute to a Kenyan driver killed in last week's ambush.

Gunmen in Dadaab attacked the convoy of foreigners from Canada, Norway, Pakistan and the Philippines on Friday.

Many aid groups have left the camp after a recent rise in abductions.

The NRC has named the freed workers as Steven Dennis, Astrid Sehl, Glenn Costes and Qurat-Ul-Ain Sadazai.

"We are thankful that our four colleagues have been found and safely returned to Kenya," an NRC spokesperson said.

"Our thoughts go to the family of the NRC driver, Abdi Ali, who was killed during the attack, and to our two local employees who are currently undergoing treatment in hospital for injuries inflicted in the incident."

Joint rescue

The foreigners had been travelling in a convoy when they were ambushed in Dadaab, which houses more than 450,000 Somalis.

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AFP news agency reported their vehicle was found abandoned a few hours after the attack, amid growing fears the gang had escaped with the hostages through the remote scrubland across the border into Somalia.

Somali and Kenyan forces launched a joint rescue operation after receiving intelligence about the hostages' whereabouts.

Kenyan army spokesman Cyrus Oguna told AFP that one of the kidnappers had been killed during the operation. Three others have been arrested.

Somalia has had no effective central government since 1991, and has been wracked by fighting ever since - a situation that has allowed piracy and lawlessness to flourish.

Gunmen last October seized two Spaniards working for Medecins sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders). They are still being held hostage in Somalia.

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