The abducted nuns’ missionary group, the Movimento Contemplativo Missionario Padre de Foucauld, named them as Caterina Giraudo, 67, and Maria Teresa Olivero, 60.
Witnesses said the armed men seized the women from their homes Monday, November 10, in the town of El Wak. They claimed kidnappers stole at least two vehicles.
Italy’s Foreign Ministry said Italian envoys in Kenya and the Vatican representative were working with local authorities to secure the nuns’ freedom.
Somali officials said they were working around the clock to find the nuns. “We’ve been searching for the nuns and the bandits since last night and there’s no trace of them,” Hussein Sheikh Hassan, administrator of El Wak district in Somalia, told Reuters news agency.
He added that the kidnappers were apparently heading towards Garbahaarey, about 175 km (110 miles) northeast of El Wak town.
“We are finding it very difficult to trail them. We ask Kenya’s government to cooperate and help us coordinate the search … We’ll welcome any Kenyan delegation, whether security or elders, so as to rescue the nuns and recover the cars,” Hassan was quoted as saying.
The kidnapping underscored the danger faced my Christian missionaries. Somali bandits have carried out an increasing number of kidnappings, often targeting foreigners or Somalis working with international organizations.
In the latest show of force by the hardline Islamist al Shabaab group, its fighters seized two southern towns, Bulamarer and Qoryoley in the Lower Shabelle region, on Tuesday, November 11, news reports said.
Battles between the Islamists and local militia also killed six people in El Dheer, in Galgadud region, and al Shabaab gunmen in trucks mounted with heavy weapons were also said to be heading towards Merka town, local officials said.
Last week, gunmen stormed an airstrip in central Somalia, abducting four European aid workers and their two pilots.