Kenya holds kidnapped Frenchwoman’s employee

(InformAfrica)— A Kenyan man who worked at the home of a disabled Frenchwoman who was kidnapped and taken to Somalia is providing investigators with crucial information, police said Monday.

Kenyan police set up a cordon around the house of the kidnapped French woman. Photo: AFP

A gang of 10 armed kidnappers seized Marie Dedieu, 66, early Saturday from her home on Manda Island in the Lamu archipelago.

“The man we have in custody was working at the woman’s home and he is assisting us with the investigation,” said a police source who asked not to be identified.

“There are aspects we want him to clarify to us because he is crucial in this investigation,” the police officer added.

Kenyan authorities Sunday were trying to establish contact with the gunmen, officials said.

With Kenyan forces obliged to stop their pursuit at the border and officials suspecting Somalia’s Al Qaeda-inspired Shebab behind the abduction, chances dimmed of a quick release for the wheelchair-bound Dedieu.

The kidnappers threw away her wheelchair, which Dedieu has used since an accident several years ago. There were also concerns over her health as Dedieu needs medication every four hours.

She has lived for the past 15 years in the Lamu archipelago, off Kenya’s northern coast.

Dedieu’s home lies across a narrow lagoon from Shela, a town on the isle of Lamu popular with the rich and famous, including Monaco’s Princess Caroline, who owns property there.

A diplomatic source described Dedieu’s house as “relatively modest” and was situated just a couple of metres from the sea.

The same source described Dedieu as “a very warm person” who was “well integrated with the local population.”

Officials said mediators have been sent to Somalia in a bid to secure the woman’s release but admitted talks could be lengthy.

A security official, speaking on condition of anonymity to AFP, said Kenya had “already sent envoys to Somalia to establish contact with the abductors,” and that negotiations were ongoing.

“With negotiations such as this, and considering there is no government on the other side, it may take quite some time, and patience is required. We are just pleading with them not to harm the women…,” the security official said.

Western countries rushed to update their travel advisories and Kenya battled to save its vital tourism industry following the kidnapping.

It was the second kidnapping in the area in less than one month. A British tourist, Judith Tebbutt, was seized on September 11 to the north of Lamu by an armed gang who killed her husband.

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AFP

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