Twenty Years Ago Today: MPs Rescued in Somalia

An entirely generic group of Somali kidnappers. Twenty years ago today, a couple of British MPs went on a fact-finding mission to north-west Somalia, which was suffering from a drought at the time. They were accompanied by an aid worker and a journalist, which may explain why the journalist's newspaper, the Herald, then recounted their kidnapping in a somewhat breathless fashion.

The hero of the piece seems to have been a local doctor, who tried to negotiate with the kidnappers. Dr Hersi did his best to reason with them, pointing out that there would be no ransom. They grew rather annoyed and started pointing guns at the captives, but the good doctor was better prepared than they thought; he had backup from members of his clan, who rushed in with their own weapons. All but one kidnapper threw down their weapons, and a short gun battle kept the last one at bay while the captives were freed.

This wasn't about money; it was a matter of local politics. One clan wanted an advantage against another, and the captives would have been useful bargaining chips; this is why Dr. Hersi's clan were so keen to deal with the matter in such a swift manner. The area in question was known as Somaliland, which was then (and is now) a region that declared independence from the rest of Somalia. It's essentially self-governing, but no other country has yet recognised it. And strangely enough, this is partly our fault; Somaliland was once British territory, and only joined with the previously Italian-held Somalia upon independence in 1960, something the people of Somaliland never seem to have gotten used to. Funny how these things come back to bite you on the backside, isn't it?