Gunmen kidnap Italian woman aid worker in Kenya

Gunmen kidnap Italian woman aid worker in Kenya

An armed gang abducted an Italian woman from a village in southeast Kenya, shooting and wounding five residents in the raid, police said Wednesday.

"The attackers fired indiscriminately at residents" before kidnapping the 23-year-old, who worked as a volunteer at an orphanage, during the attack after dark on Tuesday evening at Chakama, a small village in the coastal Kilifi county, police said in a statement.

Three children were among those injured, with one, a 10-year-old boy, shot in the eye, according to police.

The wounded have been taken to hospital and police "deployed to track down the criminals".

The village is about 60 kilometres (40 miles) inland from the coastal town of Malindi, which is popular with Italian tourists and expatriates.

Police warned against speculation, rife in the local Kenyan press, that Shabaab militants from Somalia might be behind the abduction.

Police chief Joseph Boinnet said he did not yet know who the attackers were. "We are investigating, but people should stop speculating," he told reporters.

Another police officer, speaking on condition of anonymity about the ongoing investigation, said "we understand that there has been a dispute at that orphanage and that is what we are looking at."

Kidnappings of foreigners are rare in Kenya, but have a damaging effect on the country's crucial tourist economy.

A spate of abductions on the coast in 2011 saw a British man shot dead and his wife kidnapped from a resort island, while weeks later a French woman was abducted from her home on the Lamu archipelago.

Soon afterwards Shabaab gunmen abducted two Spanish aid workers from the Dadaab refugee camp close to the Somali border in the only confirmed case of kidnapping inside Kenya by the jihadists.