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Experts: Pirates abducted English tourist, hold her in Somalia

By David McKenzie, CNN
September 19, 2011 -- Updated 1509 GMT (2309 HKT)
This photo, taken on September 12, 2011, shows the resort where David and Judith Tebbutt were attacked.
This photo, taken on September 12, 2011, shows the resort where David and Judith Tebbutt were attacked.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: A Kenyan man is charged in connection with the attacks
  • Judith Tebbutt was taken from a Kenyan lodge earlier this month
  • Officials believe she is being held in a remote corner of Somalia
  • Analyst believes this is the work of Somali pirates

Nairobi, Kenya (CNN) -- An English tourist kidnapped from a remote Kenyan resort is being held by pirates in a remote corner of Somalia, according to experts and security analysts in Nairobi.

"Gangs from Southern Somalia took her up the coast and then moved her several times," said Andrew Mwangura, a piracy expert and maritime editor of Somalia Report, an independent online publication.

Judith Tebbutt was abducted by armed men from a remote safari lodge near to the Somali border earlier this month.

Her husband, David Tebbutt, was killed in the attack when he resisted, according to Kenyan police.

UK man killed, wife kidnapped in Kenya

A Kenyan man has been charged in connection with the attack, a lawyer familiar with the case told CNN Monday.

Ali Babitu Kololo, who worked at the luxury resort in Kiwayu where the attack took place, was charged with robbery with violence and abducting with the intention to murder, according to a lawyer present at the hearing at the Lamu law courts.

Kololo pleaded not guilty to both counts.

A second man, Issa Sheck Saadi, is expected to appear in court at a later date.

Details of the incident are still sketchy and the British government has asked journalists not to reveal the exact location of Tebbutt to avoid abduction attempts from rival gangs.

Initially, it was feared that al-Shabaab, the al Qaeda-linked militant group, had conducted the operation as a revenge attack against the British nationals.

But a security analyst based in Nairobi, who tracks piracy operations but is not authorized to speak to the media, also believes this is the work of pirates.

"This is not the work of al-Shabaab," he said, "this is the work of southern armed gangs and pirates."

No ransom demands have been made yet, says Mwangura.

But if Somali pirates carried out the operation, it represents a marked departure in tactics.

For years, pirates have attacked commercial ships in the busy shipping lanes between Europe and Asia. A cargo ship has insurance, and after months of negotiations pirates can often clear several million U.S. dollars.

Some analysts believe that Somali pirates are now moving onto land because it's getting harder out at sea.

"Their inability to operate freely in the waters is forcing them onto land," says Andrews Atta-Asamoah, a senior researcher at the Institute for Security Studies. "It's significant if you place it in the context of the struggle against piracy. Since the whole push against piracy by international navies, the pirates have been looking for new territory and new frontiers."

Atta-Asamoah says that Kenya is a natural target because if its porous border with Somalia and a high number of foreign visitors and workers.

The Kenyan government, prompted by their reliance on tourism for foreign exchange, says they are making every effort to secure the border with Somalia.

Others say that, rather than a trend, this is a one-time attack caused by a more prosaic fact: the weather.

Monsoon rains off the coast of Somalia at this time of year makes operating offshore difficult.

"This incident is a special case," says Mwangura.

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