Kidnapped Cuban doctors died in a drone attack in Somalia

Kidnapped Cuban doctors died in a drone attack in Somalia

HAVANA, Feb. 17th. A Telegram channel associated with the extremist group Al-Shabab published that Cuban doctors Assel Herrera and Landy Rodríguez, kidnapped on April 12, 2019, in Kenya, died in a bombing against the group that was holding them captive.

In a press release (whose authenticity has not been verified, the terrorist organization reported the death of the two doctors, although it only showed the photograph of the supposed corpse of one of them.

“Early on February 15, 2024, American crusaders carried out multiple drone attacks in the city of Jillib (…), killing two Cuban prisoners,” the document stated.

The Cuban Foreign Ministry published in its X account that “so far, this information has not been confirmed. In this regard, the Cuban authorities remain in permanent communication with their Kenyan and Somali counterparts, and our people will be immediately informed.”

A source who requested anonymity told Turkey’s Anadolu Agency that he could neither “confirm nor deny the claim” made by the Al-Qaeda-affiliated organization.

Al-Shabab said they were Herrera and Rodríguez, the doctors who were kidnapped in Mandhera province, in what the extremist group calls the “occupied Muslim lands” of Kenya. The kidnapping was reported at the time by both the official and independent press, but after the first news, the case has been shrouded in secrecy.

The city of Jilib is located in Somalia, almost 1,600 kilometers from where they were initially abducted. Kenya and Somalia share land borders.

The news site Gawera Online, which also reported on the possible deaths of the doctors, had reviewed the February 15 attack on its website. The newspaper claimed that, at the request of the Somali army, the United States Africa Command launched an attack in the area.

According to this US Army agency, “two Al-Shabab militants were killed on the spot,” but it is not confirmed if these two casualties were Cuban doctors. Africa Command stated that no civilians were injured. “It is believed that the victims belonged to the logistics team, which is responsible for attacks,” Gawera added.

In the almost five years that have passed since the kidnapping of Herrera and Rodríguez, several parties negotiated the rescue of both doctors.

Among them, are the Cuban and Kenyan governments, members of Al-Shabab, Somali officials and members of clans from the region. Al Gawera claimed that multiple sources had seen the Cubans inside Al-Shabab strongholds.

The exact location of the doctor is unknown. If their death was confirmed in Jilib, Landy and Assel were quite far from where it was believed in February 2020, when reports placed them near El-Adde, also in Somalia.

Three months after their kidnapping, Kenyan authorities assured that the doctors were still alive, but that they did not know exactly where. The convoy carrying the doctors was attacked by extremists in April 2019, a skirmish in which one of the escorts lost his life.

The Cuban government said at the time that his rescue was a process that took “time and requires the greatest possible discretion.” In addition, they added that their families were being cared for. Landy Rodríguez, from Villa Clara, specialized in surgery, and Assel Correa, from Las Tunas, in general medicine.