Tourism minister says men made off with their elderly hostage after gun battle on Kenyan coast where she was kidnapped.
A French woman who was kidnapped from her beach front home at a Kenyan resort island and taken to neighbouring Somalia has died, the French foreign ministry said.
“The contacts through which the French government was seeking to obtain the release of Marie Dedieu, held in Somalia since October 1, have announced her death, but we have not been able to determine the date nor the circumstances,” the foreign ministry said on Wednesday.
The ministry said that the kidnappers “probably refused to give her the medication we sent her”. However, her exact cause of death has not been confirmed.
Al Jazeera’s Peter Greste, reporting from Nairobi, explained that Dedieu suffered a number of ailments for which she took daily medication.
“Marie Dedieu was a 66-year-old lady. She was wheel-chair bound. She was suffering from cancer and from heart disease. She needed daily medication. And when she was kidnapped from the island near Lamu, she didn’t have those medications with her,” he said.
“We understand that the French authorities tried to get the medication to her, but for one reason or another – whether it was deliberate or by neglect – it seems she wasn’t able to get the help that she needed and she may have died.”
Kenya’s government blamed the attack on Somali fighters from the al-Shabab group.
Dedieu was captured from an island resort near the northern Kenyan town of Lamu on October 1.
Residents said the abduction appeared to have been a planned, targeted attack, according to witnesses.
The armed gang landed on Manda island by boat and fired several gunshots before ordering the woman, her boyfriend and the house-helps to lie face to the floor.
One of the gunmen grabbed the victim and carried her to an awaiting boat.
Her Kenyan boyfriend, John Lepapa, said: “All they were saying was ‘where is the foreigner, where is the foreigner?'”.
Lepapa, 39, said he had been questioned by counter-terrorism police several hours after the attack and that he and his partner had returned two days earlier from France, where they spend part of the year.
“My girlfriend pleaded with them and told them to take whatever they wanted from the house, including the money and to spare her life,” said Lepapa. “But they would not listen.”
The ministry said it had informed Dedieu’s family of her death and was demanding the unconditional return of her remains.
“The French government expresses its profound shock, great sadness and solidarity with the family and loved ones of Marie Dedieu,” it said.
“It also expresses its indignation at the cruelty and complete absence of humanity shown by our compatriot’s abductors, whom we want to see identified and brought to justice.”
Alain Juppe, French foreign minister, told reporters that Dedieu’s death was “an act of unqualified barbarism, violence and brutality”.
“We condemn this in the strongest possible terms. We did everything possible to try to obtain her release, we tried to send medication by numerous different channels and apparently these savages could not care less.”