Somali pirates 'holding' kidnapped British tourist

Mr Ali Babitu Kololo,25, is escorted to Lamu Island by police officers on September 19, 2011. He was charged with kidnapping and robbery with violence near Lamu two weeks ago. Photo | GALGALO BOCHA  

Residents in Haradhere district, some 420km northeast of Mogadishu, have confirmed to the media that a British woman was being held hostage by Somali pirates.

Ms Judith Tebbutt, 56, was kidnapped from the coast of Kenya while her husband, David Tebbutt, 58, was allegedly killed by the armed kidnappers.

Mr Abdullahi Mohamed Farah, an elder in Haradhere, told Shabelle, an independent broadcaster in Mogadishu on Sunday, that the Briton was spotted in the area.

Other sources, contacting the media in Mogadishu Monday, stated that the Briton was not in good condition, reflecting the difficult situation she had been exposed to over the past week.

The reports reaching Mogadishu late on Sunday indicated that the pirates took Ms Tebbutt from the coastal area to inland territory.

She had been kept in parts of Juba in southern Somalia before she was moved to the central region by pirates, reportedly in two speed boats.

Earlier reports associated al-Shabaab, the radical Islamist group in Somalia, with the kidnapping, an allegation the fanatical movement denied.

Somali pirates are notorious for hijacking ships and boats from the Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden, often releasing the vessels and the crew upon payment of ransom.

In the past, some travellers by yachts, including Americans, Britons and Danes have been seized.

The kidnapping

This latest development comes just two weeks after the Somali pirates released a Danish family that included a couple and three children.

Meanwhile, a Kenyan man has been charged with kidnapping and robbery with violence near Lamu two weeks ago.

Mr Ali Babitu Kololo, 25, was Monday charged with the the kidnapping of Judith Tebbutt from Kiwayu Safari Village.

The suspect worked at the exclusive resort, which is located on an island several kilometres from the port town of Kismayu in Somalia.

Mr Kololo denied the accusations.

“They threatened to kill me, if I did not cooperate with them. They took me by boat to a place called Odo in Somalia and we sailed to Kiwayu later that night,'' he said.

He told the court that when they reached Kiwayu Safari village, the gunmen left him outside and that is when he heard gunshots.

"My client is innocent until proven guilty, and I pray to this court that my client be given bail," said his lawyer George Wakohiu.

He argued that his client was used by the armed gang and was not part of the main group.

"It was a case of mistaken of identity and my client is innocent. Let this court consider my client's pleas of innocence," added the lawyer.

The court denied him bail, and he is due to reappear for a hearing on October 25.

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