Somalia’s forces have dramatically rescued a Kenyan held hostage by suspected pirates and al Shabaab gunmen for 15 months.
James Gashamba was rescued on Thursday following cooperation between the United Nations office on drugs and crime and the forces who raided the pirate’s base in Jilib.
And even as he re-united with his family at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport on Sunday, the whereabouts of another Kenyan rescued alongside Gashamba remain unknown.
Gashamba was kidnapped alongside fellow businesswoman Loice Njoki Weru in Adado Town in Centarl Somalia before being taken to Jilib, 160 kilometers from Adado.
“We were conducting our business at about 7pm before they attacked. They tied us with ropes, put us in a car and drove us for a whole day to a house,” he said.
Gashamba was a businessman in Somalia selling herbal medicine alongside Loice Njoki before the kidnapping on the 24th of November 2014.
Having spent 15 months with the kidnappers believed to have strong links with al Shabaab, he recalls how everyday was a struggle.
“We were not allowed to see the sun. We lived in caves and in forests the whole time. They would feed us twice a day,” narrated Gashamba.
The Global Maritime Programme which fights piracy and criminal activities in the horn of Africa has been in touch with the kidnappers who at one point demanded ransom without citing a figure.
Working with Somalia’s regional Galmudug Forces, the organisation planned the rescue after establishing where the two were being held, and on Wednesday last week, the forces stormed the pirate’s hideout and rescued Gashamba.
“We have been working for two years to have them released, its been difficult. We started by taking medicine to them because they were very sick,” said John steed, a retired colonel with the United Nations.
Njoki’s whereabouts remain unknown. For Gashamba’s sister Jane Kuria and mother Florence Wanjiku, the joy of seeing Gashamba is so overwhelming. They have bigger celebration plans.
“I’m very happy. I just thank God for him and for keeping him alive,” said Jane Kuria.