French, British national held in Somalia for ‘spying’: officials


Mogadishu: Authorities in northern Somalia’s semi-autonomous Puntland region have arrested a British and French national for spying, officials said.

“We have arrested a network of spies who entered the country while disguised as NGO workers,” Puntland Security minister Kalif Ise Mudan told reporters on Monday.

He said the pair had been under surveillance “for a long time” and were caught “doing something different to what they claimed to be doing,” adding they were being held in Puntland’s main city of Garowe for further investigation.

A source close to the case said they were working for a security consultancy firm called Oversight International, and suggested they were arrested because of a “business dispute”.

A statement from Puntland’s government, carried by the news website, said the pair were “illegally gathering classified information on public and private institutions in Puntland” and “sharing this information with foreign entities.”

Two local employees were also arrested, the website said.

In London, the Foreign Office said it was aware one of its citizens had been arrested.

“We are aware of reports of the detention of a British national in Somalia (Puntland) and we are in touch with the Somali (Puntland) authorities,” a Foreign Office spokesman told AFP.

Somalia has been without a strong central government since the fall of the regime of President Siad Barre in 1991.

Puntland, situated on the Horn of Africa in Somalia’s northeast, declared full autonomy in 1998, but has stopped short of declaring full independence like its neighbouring region Somaliland.