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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Russia Urges Release of Hostages in Somalia

Russia's Foreign Ministry Monday demanded the unconditional release of eight Russian fishermen taken hostage when gunmen in southern Somalia commandeered two trawlers.

The ministry said in a statement it was actively working with officials in neighboring Kenya and other countries in the region to secure a release, because Russia has not had diplomatic relations with Somalia since 1991. At least 20 Kenyans were also being held hostage.

"We are working from the need for the immediate release of the fishermen without any prior conditions," the statement said.

Details of the seizure remained unclear. Witnesses said armed militiamen from the Somali National Front seized the trawlers near the southern port of Kismayo last week, and that the fishermen were being held inside the boats.

A Kenyan Foreign Ministry official said that the fishermen have been held hostage since Feb. 13, that they were safe and were being held because a business deal had turned sour.

Before the election of interim President Abdiqasim Salad Hassan and 245 legislators last August, Somalia had not had a central government since dictator Mohamed Siad Barre was ousted in 1991. Years of ensuing chaos enabled unregulated fishing along the Somali coastline in waters rich in lobster, shrimp, prawns and sharks.