Suspected Al-Shabaab militants kidnapped four UN World Health Organization (WHO) workers in southern Somalia early Tuesday, police said.

A police officer said all the four workers, all Somalis, were working on a polio vaccination exercise underway in Somalia for the UN health agency. The officer, who did not want to be identified, said the four were abducted by the militants in Gedo region as they were travelling in a vehicle near the town of Luuq. “They were abducted on Tuesday morning near the town of Luuq by Al-Shabaab militants while travelling in a car but the reason for their abduction is not clear,” the officer said.

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He said negotiations are underway to secure the release of the four aid workers by the local elders who have established contacts with the militants. There was no immediate comment from the WHO.

The Islamist group, Al-Shabaab, which is fighting to topple the Western-backed government, has been targeting humanitarian workers for political gain, sometimes demanding ransom in order to free the hostages.The humanitarian community says the volatile security situation continues to impact on civilian lives and create a challenging environment for the delivery of humanitarian assistance.

Source: Xinhua/