Italian aid worker kidnapped in Kenya: what we know

Coastal_town_of_Chakama
Bystanders watch police helicopters in the coastal town of Chakama, where armed gang struck

Gunmen have kidnapped an Italian volunteer working for an aid organisation in southeast Kenya, police have announced.

The raiders reportedly stormed into a trading centre in the coastal town of Chakama and opened fire on fleeing people, before abducting 23-year-old Sylvia Constanza Romano. Five other people were injured, including a ten-year-old shot in the eye and a 12-year-old hit in the thigh.

One of those injured is in a serious condition following the attack, at 8pm local time (5pm GMT) on Tuesday.

According to The Guardian, this is the first abduction of a foreigner in Kenya “since a series of raids blamed on Somali Islamist militants six years ago”.

Witnesses said the attackers spoke Somali and had targeted Romano, a volunteer with charity Africa Milele Onlus, which helps vulnerable children.

One bystander told Associated Press that six men, some armed with guns and others with machetes and clubs, had specifically “demanded to know where is the mgeni”, the Swahili word for “visitor”.

“I told them she had left to go and get a power bank but they didn’t believe me and surged into the room where they found her,” the witness added.

The attackers then proceeded to “slap her very hard until she fell”, he said.

Another witness told Kenyan TV channel KTN News: “Their aim was to get money but they took off with her to the river and, before leaving the village, they started shooting in the air and they shot one woman and four boys.”

The National Police Service confirmed the abduction in a post on Twitter.

A message on the website of Africa Milele Onlus said that there are “no words to comment on what is happening”, adding: “Sylvia, we are all with you.”

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