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|Freed UN Worker Speaks Of Ordeal In Somali Gunmen's Hands|
NAIROBI, Feb. 10 (Xinhua) -- A German UN worker who was freed over the weekend in Somalia after 10 days in captivity on Tuesday narrated his ordeal under the hands of Somali gunmen, saying that he was not mistreated.
"I thank my UN colleagues in Somalia, Nairobi and New York who were doing all they could to get me out of the situation that I was in," Rolf Helmrich, 60, told a news conference in Nairobi.
Gunmen abducted Helmrich about 45 km north of the southern Somali town of Kismayo on Jan. 29.
He was later released into the custody of senior officials of the de facto authority in the region, the Juba Valley Alliance (JVA) on the night of Saturday, Feb. 7.
He expressed his appreciation to the JVA for its instrumental role in effecting his release.
While in custody where he said he had "stable diet," he was offered the post of "Commander".
"The militia group wanted me to become their commander to teach them how to use different types of guns they had due to my experience in military matters," Helmrich said.
"The incident is just a demonstration of what can happen in a country where there is no central government and those who represent the authority hire many young people as their personal armies or militia," he told reporters.
"Right now I am glad to be home, I'm taking some time off to be with my family and would like to return to Somalia and help the Somalis rebuild their institutions and their country so that this should never happen again," said Helmrich.
He is a three-year member of a team of UN field security officers serving in Somalia as part of the UN field security system responsible for the safety and security of UN humanitarian and developmental staff in Somalia.
"I don't know the motive of my kidnap. I have the feeling that money was demanded and I also don't know whether the money was paid to them," he said when asked if the militia were paid any ransoms.
The UN resident humanitarian coordinator for Somalia Maxwell Gaylard said the United Nations does not pay ransoms and noted the United Nations will encourage the Somalis to stop the culture of kidnapping.
"We want to do what we can to encourage the Somalis to stop this culture of kidnappings," Gaylard told reporters.
He acknowledged the efforts of Somali regional authorities and clan leaders who secured the release of Helmrich and condemned the actions of the militia group responsible.
UN staff or consultants are kidnapped periodically in lawless Somalia, often for use as bargaining chips by Somali former UN workers dismissed by the organization and seeking some form of compensation.
Most hostages are released unharmed after negotiations mediated by clan elders.
The gunmen usually try to negotiate ransoms for the return of hostages, most of whom are foreign aid workers.
But a recent spate of killings in the northern region of Somaliland has alarmed aid agencies.
UN agencies employ more than 850 staffers in Somalia, up to 60 of whom are expatriates.