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Reliable sources in Kismayo, the capital city of Somalia's Lower Juba region controlled by the Islamic militant group al-Shabaab, told Somalia Report late on Tuesday that the British woman abducted from Kenya will be presented to the media by the militants after arriving in the port city on Monday - although a senior official told Reuters the insurgent group was not involved in the kidnapping.
Judith Tebbutt, from Bishop's Stortford, Hertfordshire in the United Kingdom, was kidnapped late Saturday night after Somali gunmen broke into her luxury Kiwayu Safari Village hut, killing her husband, David, and whisking her away by boat in her nightclothes.
Two speedboats with several masked gunmen arrived at the Kismayo seaport late on Monday, according to a port worker who spoke to Somalia Report.
All the port workers were ordered to vacate the area as the gunmen arrived by boat, according to the laborer, who requested to be called Dhegnas.
“We are yet not sure how many people were on the two speedboats. We saw scores of masked gunmen and later some of my friends told me that there was a white hostage in one of the boats," said Dhegnas. “We were banned from coming closer to the sea port area, but about 40 minutes later we saw four Toyota Hilux Surfs leaving from the Kismayo port to the other parts of the city."
While the movements and reports could point to the presence of the hostage, al-Shabaab is paranoid about security, and often clears out locals when moving senior leaders under high security.
Sources in Kismayo told Somalia Report that the group’s officials in Kismayo are prepared to present Mrs. Tebbutt, who reportedly suffers from hearing loss, to the world at a press conference to demonstrate their reach into Kenya.
Not us, say al-Shabaab
However, a senior al-Shabaab officer told Reuters news agency that the insurgent group was not involved in the kidnapping.
"Al-Shabaab has not abducted any Briton from Kenya. We believe bandits carried out the attack," an unnamed official told the news agency. “We shall release a statement later that al-Shabaab is not involved.”
Another al-Shabaab official told Reuters that Tebbutt had indeed been brought to Kismayo, but that her location was now unknown. The official said a pirate-funded militia had carried out the raid and would ask for a ransom – a plan opposed by al-Shabaab.
Somali shippers based in Mombasa, Kenya, told Somalia Report the attack was carried out by the Raanbow pirate group in collaboration with al-Shabaab, and that the woman was initially taken to the island of Koyama, which is part of the Bajuni archipelago stretching south from Kismayo. The pirate group was believed to have been involved in the hijacking of three Indian seamen from a fishing boat anchored off Kiunga, Lamu two years ago.