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MSF Aid Workers and UN Officials Involved in Security Incident in Somalia Moved to Safety in Mogadishu North

Flight and Security Plans Uunderway to Evacuate to Nairobi Today

11:30 a.m. Nairobi, March 28, 2001 — Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) confirms that three international MSF aid workers and two United Nations officials have been moved to a safer place in Mogadishu North, Somalia. MSF is currently working on a plan to evacuate the aid workers by plane to Nairobi, Kenya, security permitting. MSF hopes that the aid workers will leave Somalia late this afternoon.

Following a two-hour shoot-out at the MSF compound from 0900-1100 yesterday, Tuesday morning, the three MSF aid workers and two UN officials were moved to a house in Karaan, Mogadishu North. From the beginning, MSF was told that as soon as security permitted, that the five would be allowed to leave. MSF never considered this to be a hostage situation.

Due to heavy shooting and fighting around the area, it was not possible to move from the Karaan house until late last night, when the security situation calmed down. At 2 am last night, the MSF security officer in Mogadishu, was able to organize for the three MSF aid workers and two UN officials to be moved to a safer location in Mogadishu North.

On the phone from Mogadishu, the three international MSF workers (two Spanish and one French) said they were safe and well. MSF has also received confirmation that over twenty of the MSF Somali national staff who were also caught in the shoot-out of the MSF compound yesterday, are also alive and well. MSF cannot confirm the whereabouts of the remaining four UN officials.

The three MSF aid workers and six UN officials were meeting yesterday at the MSF compound to discuss the ongoing cholera epidemic and plans for an EPI / vaccine program, and were on their way to visit the cholera camp, when the MSF compound was surrounded and came under fire. The three international MSF workers and two United Nations officials were taken to the same house in Karaan, Mogadishu North, while the remaining four UN officials were taken elsewhere.

MSF has been working in Somalia since the beginning of the civil war in 1991, and in Mogadishu since 1992. There are currently 16 international MSF aid workers working on Somalia, nine of whom are based permanently in Somalia. MSF is the only organization with international staff permanently based in Mogadishu. Every year MSF treats about 80,000 people in the Yaqshid Health Centre of Mogadishu North. Since the outbreak of the cholera epidemic in January, MSF has been treating an average of 35 patients per week in Mogadishu North. Elsewhere in Somalia, MSF is running health programs in Huddur, Giowhar, Aden Yabal, and Galkayo.