MOGADISHU, Somalia — Unknown gunmen on Friday killed a Somali staffer of the U.N. food agency in southern Somalia, officials said.
The aid worker was shot three times as he left a mosque Friday evening in the port town of Merka, about 80 kilometers (50 miles) southwest of the capital, Mogadishu, said Marcus Prior, a World Food Program spokesman. He declined to name the staff member because the next of kin had not been informed.
He said the killing happened outside office hours and did not appear to be linked to the staff member's work with WFP.
"WFP treats this incident seriously and we are shocked and saddened by the loss of one of our staff. This killing only underlines what a dangerous place Somalia is," Prior said.
He said the man was the second WFP Somali staff member to be killed this year, along with five contracted drivers.
A security official, Nuriye Ali Farah, said the slain aid worker was Abdinasir Adan Muse. Farah, the deputy head of security in the Lower Shabelle Region, said police are searching for the killers and had blocked all roads into Merka and added more police officers to roadblocks. Merka is the capital of the Lower Shabelle Region.
Excluding Friday's killing, 12 aid workers, including two foreigners, have been killed in Somalia this year. Violence against aid workers in Somalia has increased dramatically this year.
It is unclear who is behind the killings, since many factions in Somalia's chaotic war stand to benefit from them. The Horn of Africa nation has not had an effective government since 1991.
Associated Press writer Mohamed Sheikh Nor in Mogadishu, Somalia and Tom Maliti in Nairobi, Kenya contributed to this report.