Cuban parliament speaker investigates fate of abducted doctors in Nairobi

In a bid to unravel the fate of two Cuban doctors abducted by Somalia-based jihadists nearly five years ago, Cuba’s parliament speaker, Esteban Lazo, has embarked on a mission to Nairobi. The doctors, Assel Herrera Correa and Landy Rodriguez Hernandez, were kidnapped on April 12, 2019, in the northeastern Kenyan town of Mandera.

Al-Shabaab, the Islamist militant group responsible for the abduction, claimed last week that the doctors had been killed in a US air strike in the southern Somali city of Jilib on February 15. The claims, however, remain unverified.

Lazo, accompanied by Cuban officials, arrived in Nairobi to engage in urgent procedures with the highest authorities of Kenya. The Cuban foreign ministry, in a statement on Tuesday, mentioned Lazo’s mission is aimed at “searching for cooperation and clarification” surrounding the reported deaths of the two doctors.

Cuba has been actively reaching out to the Somali government and the US government via diplomatic channels to seek further clarification on the incident. The Al-Qaeda-affiliated Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for the alleged deaths, citing “multiple drone strikes” in Jilib.

The US Africa Command confirmed conducting an airstrike against Al-Shabaab near Jilib on the mentioned date but expressed awareness of reports alleging the killing of civilians. The statement emphasized the seriousness with which claims of civilian casualties are taken.

The doctors were part of a 100-member Cuban medical brigade operating in Kenya under a bilateral agreement. The abduction occurred in a region where Al-Shabaab has been active, launching deadly assaults in retaliation for Kenya’s decision to deploy troops to Somalia in 2011.

Despite a military counter-offensive, US air strikes, and the presence of AU troops, Al-Shabaab still controls rural areas in Somalia. The group continues to carry out attacks against security and civilian targets, maintaining its insurgency against the central government in Mogadishu.

The situation remains complex, with Cuba seeking answers and clarification from both Kenyan and US authorities while grappling with the unverified claims made by Al-Shabaab. The fate of the abducted doctors hangs in uncertainty as diplomatic efforts unfold.

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