The Foreign Office is advising against all but essential travel to coastal areas within 150km (93 miles) of the Somali border, following a new kidnap – this time a French woman, Marie Dedieu – from a resort near the Kenya-Somali border. A security guard who raised the alarm when 10 armed men stormed into the woman’s bungalow has been arrested in connection with the latest kidnapping.
Foreign Secretary William Hague said there were "possibly copycat kidnappings" taking place, after the French woman was taken by gunmen in a similar abduction to that of Mrs Judith Tebbutt, who is still missing after she was kidnapped on September 11. Intruders shot and killed her husband David at Kiwayu, Lamu Island, a privately-owned luxury beachfront resort frequented by celebrities such as Jude Law, Sienna Miller and artist Tracey Emin.
Mr Hague told Sky: "Clearly, we are worried about the situation there. There is the case of Mrs Tebbutt that we are trying to deal with as best we can.But now we are seeing possibly copycat kidnappings taking place. That is very alarming. It is sad, and we are working with the Kenyan authorities and urging them to improve security in any way they can."
Sailors in the area have been particularly vulnerable to the risk of attacks by Somali pirates for some years now. Paul and Rachel Chandler were taken hostage while sailing on their yacht in the waters off the coast but were rescued a year later. However, these two recent land kidnappings just weeks apart show how vulnerable beachfront accommodation in that area is now.
Latest reports say the 66-year old French woman, who is disabled and was staying at her bungalow at Ras Kitau with her boyfriend where she has lived for fifteen years, was kidnapped by an armed gang on Kenya’s northern resort island of Manda and also taken to Somalia.
Kenya’s government said it believed the abductors in both cases were al-Shabab militants although there is no proof as yet.
Somalia has been at the centre of infighting by various militias for twenty years and because arms are widely available, which group exactly is responsible for the death of David Tebbutt and the two kidnap victims, remains to be confirmed.
Correspondents are reporting that al-Shabab has not previously seized foreigners far from its own territory, while the numerous pirate gangs normally kidnap ships and their crew for ransom pay outs, rather than attacking on land.