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ME Times - Nuns evacuated from Somalia after colleague's murder

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ME Times

DNA India: Italian nuns evacuated from Somalia amid Muslim fury

Monday, Sep 18, 2006

Agency: AFP

NAIROBI: Three Italian nuns have been evacuated from the Islamist-held Somali capital to Kenya after the weekend murder of one of their colleagues amid Muslim fury over comments by Pope Benedict XVI, an official said on Monday.

The trio flew into Nairobi with the body of their fallen sister on Sunday after resisting earlier advice to leave Mogadishu, where they worked at a charity hospital, Italy's envoy to the interim Somali government said.

"The Italian nuns who were serving the SOS Hospital were brought last night to Nairobi," the diplomat, Mario Rafaelli, told reporters.

The slain nun, Sister Leonella, 65, one of the longest-serving foreign members of the Roman Catholic Church in Somalia, a former Italian colony, will be buried in Kenya in accordance with her wishes, he said.

A member of the Missionaries of the Consolation order based in the Italian town of Nepi outside of Rome, she was fatally shot by two gunmen on Sunday at the SOS Hospital in Mogadishu's Huriwa District.

The killing came less than two days after a hardline Mogadishu cleric urged Muslims to "hunt down" and kill those who insult Islam following the pope's controversial remarks about the religion last week.

Somalia's powerful Islamist movement has condemned the nun's murder as "barbaric and contrary to the teachings of Islam" but has not ruled out any possible motive for the attack.

One of the gunmen, captured shortly after the incident, remained in the custody of the Islamic court that runs the Huriwa neighborhood, officials said.

"We do believe the person arrested is the man who shot the nun, he is being interrogated and is giving valuable information about the killing," one Islamist official said.

"We are searching for the other man who escaped and any other person involved in the killing," the official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

Shortly before the nun was killed, the pontiff said he was "deeply sorry" for the outrage his remarks about Islam and violence, particularly with reference to jihad, or "holy war," had triggered in the Muslim world.

The head of the Vatican press office, Federico Lombardi, said the nun's murder in Mogadishu was "horrible" and hoped it would remain an "isolated act," Italy's ANSA news agency reported.

Somalia, a Horn of Africa nation of some 10 million mainly moderate Muslims, has been wracked by instability for the past 16 years but has recently seen the rise of fundamentalist Islamists who seized the capital from warlords in June.

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