Kidnapped Cuban doctors killed in a drone strike, Al-shabaab claims

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MOGADISHU, Somalia - A statement released on Telegram by Somalia-based Al-Shabaab militants claims two Cuban doctors who have been under their custody, were killed on Thursday in a drone strike within Jilib town, the militants' stronghold in Middle Jubba.

Although the claims are yet to be clarified, the militants took the two; Surgeon Landy Rodríguez and general medicine specialist Assel Herrera into captive in 2019, after ambushing them in Mandera, the northeastern town in Kenya.

Throughout this time, there have been concerted efforts to rescue the doctors, including behind-the-scenes meetings involving government officials in Somalia, clan elders, Al-Shabaab, and the governments of Cuba and Kenya, which had struct a medical deal to have them in the East African nation.

Without giving further details, the militants claimed the two died following an airstrike in Middle Jubba, where the doctors have been undertaking 'community service'. Multiple sources had previously sighted the two in the Al-Shabaab strongholds.

Garowe Online cannot authoritatively verify Al-Shabaab claims but the airstrikes are usually conducted by US Africa Command upon requests by the government of Somalia. This week, the US reported an airstrike in Jubaland which left two militants dead.

The government of Kenya signed a deal with Cuba in Havanna requiring the Caribbean nation to dispatch medics to Kenya. Although it is a communist state where freedoms of speech and media are quite limited, Cuba's healthcare systems are considered the best in the world.

The two were abducted while traveling to the hospital, with one of the security officers guarding them killed instantly by the militants. A few years ago, a court in Kenya convicted the driver of the vehicle, placing him in the crime scene for allegedly colluding with the militants.

Al-Shabaab abducts foreign nationals mainly to bargain for ransom and in most cases, they are subjected to community service as they wait for the offer. The elders pleaded with Al-Shabaab not to kill the doctors as all involved parties looked for an amicable solution.

In 2020, Al-Shabaab released Silvia Romano, an Italian who had been abducted by Al-Shabaab, following intensive intelligence coordination involving sleuths from Turkey and the National Intelligence Security Agency (NISA). Reports indicated she was pregnant with an Al-Shabaab operative.

The search for the two doctors was intensified over the four years, with those involved almost getting closer to brokering a deal. The government of Cuba had announced a few years ago reaching a deal with Alshabab over the release of the two captives.

However, efforts by the traditional elders did not yield fruits, although a consensus was reached to have the two alive as negotiations went on. They have been treating the militants and locals, some sources had told Garowe Online.

Their alleged deaths could not be confirmed but there have been reports of aerial bombardments in Jubaland, particularly in the outskirts of Kismayo in Middle Jubba. The US has been coordinating such efforts but the most recent operation, only left 'two militants dead and no civilian casualty.

GAROWE ONLINE

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