The National Union of Somali Journalists has condemned the kidnapping of a French journalist in that country, according to a media release.

The statement reads:

NUSOJ strongly condemns the kidnapping of French journalist Gwen Le Gouil on 16 December 2007, by unidentified gunmen in the port town of Bossasso, the capital of Bari region in north-eastern Somalia.

According to journalists and news reports, cameraman Le Gouil arrived in Bossasso on 15 December from Mogadishu. He was kidnapped by five armed men who ordered his driver and translator to leave. He is reportedly being held in Marero, seven kilometres east of Bossasso. On 17 December, Puntland authorities failed to release him after the kidnappers opened fire on officials who tried to negotiate with them.

The reason behind Le Gouil's kidnapping, who had traveled to Somalia in order to cover human trafficking to Saudi Arabia via Yemen from Bossasso, is not officially known, although the kidnappers reportedly demanded a ransom of at least US$70,000.

The media outlet with which Le Gouil works is not known for certain, but unverified reports state that he is a freelancer with ARTE Television, a French and German television station based in Strasbourg with an office in Paris.

"We denounce this kidnapping of Gwen Le Gouil, and we demand his immediate and unconditional release" said Omar Faruk Osman, NUSOJ Secretary General. "We appeal to Puntland authorities to obtain the peaceful release of the French cameraman and not to use any force that might put his life at risk"