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Somalia's new women's minister snatched by rebels

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation - Thu, 21 Jul 2011 23:36 GMT
Author: Ibrahim Mohamed
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By Ibrahim Mohamed

NAIROBI, July 21 (Reuters) - Somalia's new minister for women was snatched by Islamist rebels 30 km outside the capital, Mogadishu, almost immediately after her appointment was announced, a relative said on Thursday.

Asha Osman Aqil was grabbed in an area controlled by al Shabaab militants late on Wednesday after the country's fragile government announced its new cabinet.

"Asha is now being interrogated in Balad by al Shabaab," a relative who did not want to be identified for fear he would be attacked by the rebels, told Reuters.

"She told them she is aware of her nomination and had not contacted the government at all and had not accepted the vacancy."

The rebels and the government have not commented.

Al Shabaab often target government ministers and killed Interior Minister Abdi Shakur Sheikh Hassan in a suicide bomb attack last month.

Somalia has been without an effective central government since the overthrow of dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991.

The United Nations declared famine in parts of Somalia on Wednesday and several regional analysts blamed the continued conflict for the disaster. (Writing by Barry Malone; Editing by Richard Lough)

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