Kidnapped Aid Workers in Somalia Thought to Be in 'Safe Condition'

Two foreign aid workers kidnapped in Somalia are apparently being fed in captivity and police are on the trail of the gunmen who abducted them, officials said Friday.

The victims, women who work for the international aid group Medecins Sans Frontieres, or Doctors Without Borders, were kidnapped Wednesday in Puntland, a semiautonomous region of northern Somalia.

"We have heard from several sources that the two aid workers are receiving food and water," Paula Farias, MSF president in Spain, said of the captives — a doctor from Spain and a nurse from Argentina.

The region's deputy governor, Yusuf Mumin Bidde, also said they were believed to be in "safe condition."

Farias said the information was credible because several sources agreed on the detail about food and water, which had concerned the humanitarian agency for days. MSF also has asked Puntland authorities to allow it to send a medically equipped vehicle to the region, Farias said.

Puntland police chief Abdi Azziz Diis said the gunmen were being trailed and "their days are numbered."

Puntland is a staging post for human traffickers running boats into Yemen, and piracy has been rampant off its coast. In recent months, however, the U.S. Navy has led international patrols to combat piracy in the region, cutting down on the pirates' ability to rob merchant ships and vessels carrying aid.

A French journalist, Gwen Le Gouil, was released Monday after eight days in captivity in Puntland. Le Gouil's kidnappers had demanded about $70,000 in ransom, but police said it was not paid.

Puntland is about 930 miles north of Mogadishu, the Somali capital at the center of an Islamic insurgency that has killed thousands of people this year. The United Nations says Somalia is facing Africa's worst humanitarian crisis.

Somalia, an arid nation in the Horn of Africa, has had no functioning national government since 1991, when clan leaders overthrew dictator Mohamed Siad Barre and then turned on each other.

Ethiopia, with tacit U.S. approval, sent soldiers to Somalia last year to wipe out the Council of Islamic Courts, a radical Muslim group that had seized control of the capital and much of the southern part of the country. But members of the Islamic group, which has alleged links to Al Qaeda, soon launched a bloody insurgency.