The Two Cuban Doctors Held Captive in Somalia Have Died, According to Their Kidnappers

In April 2019, the news of the kidnapping of Assel Herrera Correa and Landy Rodríguez was reported. (Collage)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, February 17, 2024 — The Cuban Foreign Ministry warned this Saturday that the reports on the death of Cuban doctors Assel Herrera Correa and Landy Rodríguez, kidnapped in Kenya since 2019, “have not been confirmed.” The jihadist group Al Shabab, which held both health workers, released a statement on X which claims that both died during a bombing attributed to the United States that occurred on Thursday, February 15 in Somalia.

“The Cuban authorities remain in permanent communication with their Kenyan and Somali counterparts, and our people will be immediately informed,” said the Foreign Ministry, which stressed that all the information circulating is, so far, “unofficial.”

Al Shabab also published two photographs of Herrera Correa’s alleged corpse, with his naked torso and traces of blood on his body, after the attack by American drones “at 12:10 am” on the Somali town of Jilib. Among the casualties of the alleged bombing were the two “Cuban prisoners” captured in Mandera, Kenya.

Al Shabab also accuses the United States of targeting its prisoners and describes that, in previous years, it has attacked at least two enclaves of the jihadist group with this objective.

Cuba’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (@CubaMINREX) posted this notice today on X (formerly Twitter): In recent hours, unofficial sources have reported the death in a bombing last Thursday, February 15, of the Cuban doctors, Dr. Assel Herrera Correa and Dr. Landy Rodríguez Hernández, kidnapped in the community of Mandera, Kenya, on April 12, 2019.

Rodríguez and Herrera Correa were kidnapped on April 12, 2019 in the Kenyan city of Mandera, bordering Somalia and the target of jihadist attacks in the past. That day, the two doctors were traveling, as was their custom, in a convoy to the Mandera hospital, protected by armed escorts, when they were intercepted after a shooting in which one of the police officers guarding them was killed.

Until 2022, the Government of Kenya always stated that steps were being made to rescue the doctors, efforts that, to date, have been unsuccessful. Since the arrival of William Ruto to the Kenyan Presidency in September of that year, the Executive has not publicly pronounced on the case. Official silence has also prevailed in neighboring Somalia, where the two doctors supposedly remain captive.

“Nobody knows the current whereabouts of the two Cuban doctors. We also do not have up-to-date information about the current state of their well-being,” a source from the Somali National Intelligence and Security Agency (NISA) told EFE in April 2023, on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak to the media.

“It is believed that they are still held somewhere in an Al Shabab bastion since their kidnapping,” the source said. “We don’t have any more details at the moment,” he insisted, “and nothing new has emerged in the last two years.”

Herrera and Rodríguez were part of a contingent of 100 Cuban professionals who arrived in Kenya in 2018

In May 2019, traditional leaders from Kenya and Somalia who traveled to the Somali region of Jubaland, controlled by Al Shabab, to negotiate in favor of the doctors, claimed to have seen the doctors providing medical assistance to the local population. According to the mediators, the kidnappers went so far as to demand 1.5 million dollars as a condition for their release, the Kenyan press reported at the time.

Herrera Correa and Rodríguez were part of a contingent of 100 Cuban professionals who arrived in Kenya in 2018, as part of a bilateral agreement to improve access to specialized health services in the African country.

Al Shabab, affiliated with the Al Qaeda terrorist network since 2012, carries out frequent attacks to overthrow the Somali Government – supported by the international community – and establish an ultra-conservative Islamic State. The jihadist group controls rural areas of central and southern Somalia and also attacks neighboring countries such as Kenya and Ethiopia.

Somalia has been living in a state of war and chaos since 1991, when dictator Mohamed Siad Barre was overthrown, which left the country without effective government and at the mercy of Islamist militias and warlords.

Translated by Regina Anavy


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