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British Foreign Office warns citizens to stay clear of Kenyan coastal areas near the Somali border after a disabled French woman was kidnapped only weeks after a British couple suffered similar but tragic fates.

The British Foreign Office have issued a warning advising citizens to stay 150km away from the Kenyan coastal areas near the Somali border in fear of further attacks.

Maria Dedieu a disabled well-known retired French journalist is said to spend half the year at her home on Manda Island.  This is likely to have been known by the gunmen which made her easy prey.  A witness talked of 10-armed men who arrived in two small speedboats and busted into her house shouting ‘where is the foreigner’.  She was dragged down the beach and put into a speedboat leaving her wheelchair behind.

The Kenyan Navy gave chase after the escaping speedboats but was unable to facilitate her rescue after one of their speedboats capsized during the chase.

Manda is an island off the Lamu Archipelago of Kenya, known for its ports of Takwa and Manda Town.  The island is now linked by ferry to Lamu.  The island is separated from the mainland by the narrow Mkanda channel.  Manda Island is a popular tourist area.  The recent attacks will have a serious impact on the Kenyan tourism industry and the Kenyan Government have vowed to step up security in the area to prevent further attacks.

Three weeks ago a British couple was hijacked from their beachfront cottage on the Kenyan Island of Lamu.  David Tebbutt was tragically shot and killed by the pirates during the attack but his wife Judith Tebbutt was taken hostage and is currently being held captive inside Somalia.

The French Military have been aggressive against Somali pirates in the past.  They have attempted rescue missions on a number of small yachts and suffered an own goal killing Florent Lemacon a French National on board Yacht Tanit in 2009.

Pirates normally focus on commercial ships at sea but in recent years have also attacked private yachts, capturing Europeans or Americans on pleasure trips. Recently a reputed $3.5 million was paid for the release of the Danish Johansen family.  A British yacht couple, Paul and Rachel Chandler spent over a year in captivity and were finally released last November for a ransom thought to have been £600,000.

They have in recent weeks been targeting their victims on land potentially due to the monsoon season restricting their ability at sea or they may be looking for easier targets to keep ransom payments coming in as many merchant vessels are now better protected using armed guards.  The latest kidnappings are not acts of piracy although its believed that Somali pirate gangs are behind the assaults.

Alternatively pirates may potentially use the European hostages to barter for the release of fellow Somali pirates currently held inside Kenyan jails.  Kenya is one of the few Countries willing to prosecute Somali pirates captured by Operation Atlanta, EU NAVFOR’s task force.

Currently over 100 pirates are awaiting trial in Kenyan jails with 50 already found guilty of piracy behind bars.  Over 1000 Somali pirates are held at present by 19 different nations.