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Thursday, 16 July 2009

Two Frenchmen Captured in Somalia

Two French nationals working with the Somali government in an advisory capacity have been kidnapped from their Mogadishu hotel by dozens of insurgents wearing government uniforms:
Mogadishu – Two French security agents kidnapped from their hotel in Mogadishu have been handed over to hardline Islamist insurgents, a Somali security official said Wednesday.

No group claimed responsibility for the abduction Tuesday of the two men, who were described by Paris as security consultants and were taken from their hotel rooms by gunmen wearing government uniforms.

"The two French hostages have now changed hands, they are held by Islamist rebels in Mogadishu. Talks with the government for their release are still ongoing," the high-ranking security official said on condition of anonymity.

He did not specify whether the pair, whom the French foreign ministry said were on a mission to provide security assistance to the Somali government, were being held by the Shebab or Hezb al-Islam.

Neither group was immediately available for comment.

The Al Qaeda-inspired Shebab control large parts of central and southern Somalia, while Hezb al-Islam is a more political group led by Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys, once an ally of President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed.
Things have now taken a much more sinister turn, however - the two men have been separated and 'shared' between two different extremist groups:

Two French security advisers seized in Somalia this week have been split up and are now being held by two different hard-line groups, reports say.

The pair were snatched by gunmen from a Mogadishu hotel on Tuesday and were being held by the Hizbul-Islam group.

But officials say the al-Shabab group wanted them and after a row, Hizbul-Islam handed one of the men over.

Al-Shabab has recently carried out several beheadings, amputations and stonings in the areas it controls.

They are allied with Hizbul-Islam against the UN-backed interim government and together control much of southern Somalia.

Both groups are said to have links to al-Qaeda and have been reinforced by foreign fighters.

The BBC's Somali Service editor Yusuf Garaad Omar says al-Shabab is known for being the more radical of the two groups.

He says the hostage held by al-Shabab fighters is likely to face greater problems because they care little for their public image and have carried out killings on camera.

map showing areas under Islamist control

A group of gunmen dressed in military uniform seized the men on Tuesday morning and handed them over to Hizbul-Islam.

The move apparently sparked a row with al-Shabab, which managed to persuade the other group to hand over one of the hostages.

An unnamed al-Shabab militant told Reuters the two men had been shared "to avoid clashes between Islamists".

Somali Foreign Minister Mohamed Abdullahi Omar urged the rebel groups not to politicise the situation.

"So far, it remains a monetary issue, not a political one," he told AFP news agency.

Somali Prime Minister Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke, meanwhile, warned Hizbul-Islam they would "bear responsibility for any harmful action taken against the hostages".

The French advisers were reportedly helping to train the forces of government, which has recently appealed for foreign help to tackle the Islamists.

The US last month confirmed that it has sent weapons to the government, which is also being protected by some 4,000 African Union troops in Mogadishu.

Somalia has not had a functioning national government since 1991.

Moderate Islamist Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed was sworn in as president in January after UN-brokered peace talks.

He promised to introduce Sharia law but the hardliners accuse him of being a western stooge.

1 comment:

Yasin said...

I would advise Al-shabab who has now fully taken over the two french men not to harm them. If they do any harm to them, I hope they will pay the price for it.