Somali minister kidnapped: reports

08:58, July 22, 2011      

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A newly appointed government minister of Somalia was kidnapped on Thursday by insurgents near the capital Mogadishu.

Minister for Family and Women's Affairs Asho Osman Aqil, who was among new ministerial lineup announced on Wednesday by the prime minister, was snatched by heavily armed Islamist fighters from Al Shabaab group in Balad town north of the capital Mogadishu, local Shabelle radio reported.

The station based in Mogadishu quoted witnesses and unmanned government officials as saying that the minister was heading to the Somali capital when she was taken out of her vehicle.

Somali government spokesman Abdurrahman Osman who spoke to Xinhua by phone could not confirm or deny the reports saying the matter will officially be reacted when they have full information of what happened.

The Islamist rebel group of Al Shabaab have not commented on the kidnapping of the Somali minister but the group are known to target senior government officials in the past.

Somali Prime Minister Abdiweli Mohamed Ali on Wednesday announced his new 18-member cabinet which mostly comprise of technocrats who have not been known in Somali politics. The Somali parliament is expected to vote on the cabinet in the next few days.

The new Somali government is expected to face huge challenges as the country is suffering severe drought and famine in the south while battling Islamist insurgency.

The Somali government controls only parts of the capital while Islamist rebels run much of south and center of the war-torn country.

The government has one-year term to fulfill a number of transitional tasks including the drafting of a new constitution for the country to complete the reconciliation process.

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