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Swedish politician wounded in Somali kidnap attempt

By Abdalle Ahmed

MOGADISHU (Reuters) - Somali gunmen tried to kidnap a Swedish opposition politician on Wednesday in an ambush in which she and another woman were wounded and two men were killed, police said.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility. However, al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab militants have kept up guerrilla-style attacks and kidnappings in the city despite being largely pushed out by Somali and African forces two years ago.

Witnesses said Ann-Margarethe Livh, an opposition Left Party city councilor in Stockholm, was returning to her hotel after giving a speech at the University of Somalia when the gunmen struck near the Turkish embassy.

Student Ahmed Dek said she flung open the rear door of the car and ran under a hail of bullets towards the university. She was bleeding badly from her left side, he said.

Police said an officer guarding her and a man said to be her translator were killed. A Somali woman from Sweden was also wounded, they said.

Swedish media reported that a Swedish-Somali man from Stockholm was shot dead in the attack, citing sources. The Swedish Foreign Ministry said it was investigating the reports.

"Livh has a gunshot wound and is on her way out of the country. A group of party members that she is part of have been shot at," Left Party official Aron Etzler said.

Livh is the most prominent Left Party politician in Stockholm. A party spokeswoman told Sweden's TT news agency the group was in Mogadishu "in connection with an international project within the work of the Left Party".

KIDNAP ATTEMPT

Bile Ibrahim, of the criminal investigation department, said police were investigating an attempted kidnap.

"Our initial investigation shows that the attack was motivated by a kidnap of the white woman," Ibrahim told Reuters.

"The men were three to four, armed with AK47s and they blocked the road in front of the car which the white woman was on board. They begun to fire at the driver and the others. They did not want to kill her, but to kidnap her."

He said three university lecturers were being questioned.

The Swedish Foreign Ministry said Sweden's ambassador to Mogadishu has talked to Livh.

The ministry said preparations were under way to move her to Kenya after treatment in Mogadishu. A spokesman for the U.N. hospital there said her wounds were not life threatening.

Somalia has a new elected government that has been in charge for about a year and is attempting to rebuild itself after two decades of civil war and lawlessness, triggered by the overthrow of president Siad Barre in 1991.

Witnesses said the attack took place near where three people were killed last month when a car loaded with explosives rammed into an office housing Turkish embassy staff, killing three people. Al Shabaab claimed responsibility for that attack.

Wednesday's attack was on a feeder road that links to KM4, or kilometer 4, a busy junction in Mogadishu. During the height of the push by the African troops against al Shabaab, analysts said that whoever held KM4 controlled Mogadishu.

KM4 is a junction that leads to the airport, the seaport and to the presidential palace.

Last week, a medical charity that was a lifeline for hundreds of thousands of Somalis announced it was pulling out of the country, saying the threat of deadly violence had become intolerable.

(Additional reporting by Anna Ringstrom in Stockholm; Writing by James Macharia; Editing by Alison Williams)

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