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Somalia: Rebel group free abducted female cabinet minister

By   /  July 22, 2011  /  No Comments

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Mogadishu (Alshahid)-Alshabab rebels in Somalia have set free a newly appointed female cabinet minister after she was seized, a government official said Friday.

Alshabab members abducted 32-year-old Asha Osman Aqiil in Bal-ad, a town 30 km north of the Somali capital Mogadishu, a day after she was named the country’s minister for women and family affairs.

She was on her way to take up her position when she was snatched by a gang, clan elder Ahmed Sheikh Mohamud told AFP.

“They (Alshabab rebels) let her go because she told them that she was not aware of the appointment and that she did not want to take the post,” Mowlid Maane a Somali MP told reporters.

Maane, who expressed surprise that Aqiil was named minister while she was still in Alshabab controlled area, said that she was not harmed and that she was staying at her home in the town where Islamist rebels have been in control of the past three years.

Before her sudden elevation to ministerial office, Aqiil was previously a vocal women’s rights campaigner. A widow, her husband was abducted and killed by suspected Alshabab members three years ago.

Alshabab has not commented on the kidnapping of the Somali minister but the group is known to target senior government officials in the past.

Somali Prime Minister Abdiweli Mohamed Ali on Wednesday announced his new 18-member cabinet which mostly comprise of technocrats who have not been known in Somali politics. The Somali parliament is expected to vote on the cabinet in the next few days.

The new Somali government is expected to face huge challenges as the country is suffering severe drought and famine in the south while battling Islamist insurgency.

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