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Manda Island, close to the Kenya-Somalia border Google Maps

Suspected pirates take Frenchwoman from Kenya to Somalia

Kenyan and French authorities are working to free Marie Dedieu from her captors in Somalia. She was abducted amid a shoot-out on the sea yesterday.

A FRENCHWOMAN ABDUCTED from a Kenyan resort by ten heavily armed Somali militants has been taken to Somalia after a shoot-out between the kidnappers and Kenyan security forces.

The woman, named as Marie Dedieu, was taken under cover of darkness yesterday. She’s thought to be in her late sixties or early seventies, and uses a wheelchair to get around.

The Kenyan government has blamed the attack on Somali militants from al-Shabab, saying they came from the town of Ras Komboni.

Officials had earlier indicated Somali pirates had pulled off the attack, before the government later blamed al-Shabab. If pirates are involved, it would be the second such attack near the popular tourist town of Lamu in a month. In early September, pirates shot dead a British man and kidnapped his wife from a resort near Lamu.

Sea stand-off

Yesterday the coastguard pursued the abductors and several of the Somalis were injured, but they escaped with Dedieu on board.

At one point during the chase two Kenyan boats had the suspected pirate boat surrounded, according to Tourism Minister Najib Balala. A plane overhead was also monitoring the situation, he said.

Ambrose Munyasia, a top police official on the coast, said he had information that the French government would join the chase. He said he was optimistic the woman would be rescued soon.

The French Foreign ministry said in a statement that French officials are “working with the Kenyan authorities, who have mobilized significant air and sea resources in order to free our compatriot.”

Kenya’s Sunday Nation reports that mediators have been sent to Somalia to try to negotiate for her release.

Britain and France have warned tourists to stay away from the Kenya-Somalia border and the Kenyan coast, while the Department of Foreign Affairs here continues to advice against travel to areas bordering Somalia.

People near the scene of yesterday’s kidnapping heard gunshots around 3 am, Lamu resident Muhidin Athman said. Athman said the Frenchwoman owns a house on Manda Island and lives there half the year. She gets around with the help of a wheelchair or personal assistants, Athman said.

Manda Island is just across the channel from Lamu, an old resort town.

- Additional reporting by Associated Press