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Freed Canadian aid workers being kept in seclusion near Nairobi

Steven Dennis from Canada, one of the four released foreign aid workers from the Norwegian Refugee Council held hostage in Somalia, gives a thumbs up after arriving at the Wilson airport in Nairobi July 2, 2012.

Thomas Mukoya/Reuters

Canadian aid workers freed from kidnappers during a gunfight in Somalia are being kept in seclusion by their organization so they can debrief and recover from their ordeal.

Four rescued foreigners, including Canadians Steve Dennis and Qurat-Ul-Ain Sadozai, are resting up in the Nairobi area.

"We have today created an atmosphere of calm around them," said Rolf Vestvik, spokesman for the Norwegian Refugee Council, for whom the foreigners were working when they were abducted.

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They were spending the day eating, sleeping and decompressing, he said, and will not be speaking about their ordeal for now.

The foreigners had been working at the Dadaab refugee camp in northeastern Kenya. A convoy that included NRC Secretary-General Elisabeth Rasmusson was travelling without armed guards, in an apparent attempt to avoid attention, when it was attacked. The vehicle with Ms. Rasmusson escaped but another, carrying the four foreigners and three Kenyans, was captured.

The Kenyan driver was killed and the other two locals injured, while the four aid workers were driven north toward Somalia in their own vehicle. That car was abandoned before the border and the kidnappers and their prisoners crossed the unmarked frontier on foot.

It was an arduous journey.

Filipino hostage Glenn Costes sustained a light bullet wound during the abduction. Mr. Dennis, who is allergic to peanuts, could not eat any of the nut-based rations offered by the captors and subsisted on a meagre allocation of chocolate.

Close family back home were told the hostages were believed to be in the hands of the radical Islamist organization al-Shabab.

The Norwegian Refugee Council immediately sought to clamp down on information – routine practice during a conflict zone abduction – while officials worked behind the scenes to locate and rescue the aid workers. After three days in captivity, the four foreigners were freed about 60 kilometres from the border in a dramatic rescue by Ras Kamboni, a Somali militia at odds with al-Shabab. One kidnapper was shot dead during the gun battle and the other three fled.

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The four freed workers were flown by military helicopter from Dhobley, near the rescue scene, to Nairobi.

Mr. Dennis's parents said Tuesday morning that they have spoken with him three times since his rescue. They were unsure of how soon their son would resume his aid work but were looking forward to seeing him.

"We expect he will be here in a week or two," his father, Peter Dennis, said hopefully.

With a report from Timothy Appleby

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