Somali refugees at the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya, the largest refugee camp in the world
Four foreign aid workers kidnapped in Kenya's Dadaab refugee camp were released overnight in southern Somalia after a short gunfight, and were safe with the Kenyan army, officials said Monday.
"They are safe in our hands, they have been freed," Kenyan army spokesman Cyrus Oguna told AFP, adding that the two men and two women seized on Friday were released after a joint operation of Kenyan and Somali troops.
"They were released in a joint force of Somali and Kenyan forces, during which one of the kidnappers was killed," he said. Three others were arrested.
The aid workers with the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) come from Canada, Norway and the Philippines, the fourth being a dual national from Canada and Pakistan.
One has a bullet wound to the leg but they are otherwise unharmed.
"They are exhausted, they have walked far and have blisters, and one of the aid workers was shot in the leg, but otherwise they are in good health," Oguna said, adding they were now in the southern Somali border town of Dhobley.
"They are receiving medical attention at our base while they await transfer back to Kenya," Oguna added.
Mohamed Dini Adan, a Somali military commander in Dhobley, said the army had stopped the "kidnappers who were trying to hide and sneak past the army."
Somali forces heard reports the gunmen were heading for a dense area of remote forest some 25 kilometres (15 miles) from Dhobley, and rushed to chase them down.
"Thanks to God we foiled their aims of taking the hostages into the forest," said Somali General Osmail Sahardid, who led the operation, adding that three of the gunmen had been captured.
Residents in Dhobley said the local Ras Kamboni militia -- commanded by a former powerful Islamist warlord now allied to Kenya -- were also involved in the rescue.
A Kenyan driver was killed and two others were wounded during Friday's attack.
Kenyan security forces scrambled military helicopters and aircraft after gunmen attacked the NRC convoy at around midday Friday, while vehicles and troops on foot searched the remote scrubland either side of the porous border with Somalia.
However, the aid workers' vehicle, which the gunmen stole after killing the driver, was found abandoned a few hours after the attack, and fears grew the gang had escaped with the aid workers into Somalia.
Kenya, which invaded southern Somalia in October to attack Al-Qaeda linked Islamist insurgents, has troops some 120 kilometres (75 miles) deep into Somalia. However, the forces control only pockets of the vast territory.