Puntland police intercept child trafficking ring
Seven children victims of kidnap have been rescued in Somalia's semi-autonomous Puntland state, officials said.
Officials of the northeastern Somalia state said the children were kidnapped from the southern and central regions.
A vehicle in which the children and two accompanying men were travelling was intercepted between Garowe and Las Anod towns, respectively 1,000km and 1,100km northeast of Mogadishu.
Mr Abdulkadir Yusuf Dahir, the Director General (DG) of the Puntland Ministry of Women and Children Affairs, confirmed that his department received children aged between seven and 15 years.
Mr Dahir said they were carefully tracing the families of the children for a smooth handover.
He disclosed that the rescued children were all girls, adding that his ministry would take care of them until their parents or other relatives were identified.
“So far, we know that the girls were brought from Hawadley village in Middle Shabelle region (about 55km north of Mogadishu),” stated Mr Dahir.
He added that two men accompanying the children were detained and were being questioned.
The report also indicated that the girls were being taken to Hargeisa, the capital of the self-declared Republic of Somaliland, 1,500 northwest of Mogadishu.
Puntland police promised to issue a statement once the investigations were complete.
Meanwhile, residents in Hudur town, 420km southwest of Mogadishu, found the beheaded body of an Imam (Islamic preacher) in a town square.
The body was identified as that of Sheikh Abdurahman Moalim Warsame, one the best know preachers in the town.
Residents who requested not to be identified for personal security reasons, informed the media that Al-Shabaab militants, who captured the town on Sunday following the departure of the Ethiopian troops and accompanying Somali government forces, prohibited the people from collecting the body for burial.
Sheikh Warsame, aged around 80, was the Chief Preacher at Hudur town’s main mosque and may have been killed by Al-Shabaab militants for his moderate views, according to the local residents.
Officials at Eelbarde, a district close to the border with Ethiopia, estimated that about 7,000 families had fled Hudur since Al-Shabaab militants entered the town.
They added that most of the escapees were suffering as the region was experiencing a dry season and that they were not getting any support.
Al-Shabaab militants have recently been targeting moderate religious men who opposed the movement’s jihadist and extremist philosophy.