Kenyan authorities have waded in the plight of two Cuban doctors abducted in Somalia, denying earlier reports that the medics have been released.
A Kenyan security official said the two had not been released as claimed.
“Al-Shabaab has not released the two Cuban Doctors they kidnapped. However, intelligence and military efforts are ongoing to secure their release,” said the official.
This is after some Somali security officials said the doctors had been released after negotiations only for the Cuban officials to deny the reports hours later.
Associated Press (AP), citing an intelligence official, had earlier on said the doctors were released at the weekend after months of negotiations with their captors.
But AFP quoted the Cuban spokesman of foreign affairs Juan Antonio Fernandez denying the reports of their release.
“I deny the information circulating this morning about the alleged liberation of the two kidnapped Cuban doctors Assel Herrera Correa and Landy Rodriguez Harnandez,” the spokesman was quoted saying.
The medics have been in the hands of the captors for a year and a half. The AP said the Somali intelligence acting at the request of the Cuban government negotiated for the release of the doctors after it got a video showing them a few months ago.
Cuba’s foreign minister Bruno Rodriguez tweeted and thanked the Somali government for its help.
He said he had spoken with Somali’s foreign minister Ahmed Isse Awad over the developments.
The terrorists kidnapped the doctors in Mandera Town as they were going to work on April 12, 2019, killing one of the bodyguards who were attached to them.
Days later, the driver of the car was charged with terrorism for his alleged complicity in the kidnapping of the two doctors.
The doctors, an orthopaedic surgeon and a physician were taken to Somalia through the main border in Mandera after shooting as they were being bundled away.
The doctors were identified as Assel Herrera and Landy Rodriguez and were part of a 100-member Cuban team that had come to Kenya for work under an agreement between the two countries.
After the incident, some of their colleagues who were near the Kenya-Somalia border were moved to a safer place.
Senior Cuban officials visited Kenya after the incident in efforts to secure their release. The incident prompted authorities in Mandera to change their tactics and among others pushed for the construction of a perimeter wall at the main border and employ private security to boost the security operations there.
Al-Shabaab terrorists have been striking Kenyan towns along the main border in a series of incidents after defying the security checks in the area.
Somalia has not had an effective central government since the 1991 overthrow of President Siad Barre’s military regime, which ushered in more than two decades of anarchy and conflict in a country deeply divided along clan lines.
Kenyan troops are in Somalia to address Al-Shabaab menace. Kenya launched Operation Linda Nchi on October 14, 2011, after gunmen seized tourists at the Coast which the government saw as a threat to the country’s sovereignty as it targeted the nation’s economic lifeline-tourism.