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Somali Government Working to Free French Hostages


Somali official says the government is working to free two French security advisors kidnapped in Mogadishu on Tuesday.

Interior Minister Sheikh Abdulkadir Ali Omar tells VOA Somali service that he believes "bandits" kidnapped the two men for ransom.

However, he said other groups may be involved.

No one has claimed responsibility for the kidnapping. Reliable sources in Mogadishu tell VOA that Somalia's two main Islamist insurgent groups, al-Shabab and Hizbul Islam, are both claiming rights over the hostages.

The groups are said to be in a tense stand-off over who will hold the two men.

The French foreign ministry says the men had come to Somalia to advise the transitional government on security matters.

Neither French nor Somali officials have released the men's names.

The Somali interior minister says the French nationals arrived in Mogadishu on July 9 and were placed the Hotel Sahafi, which the government believed was safe.

A group of about 12 gunmen seized the two men from the hotel on Tuesday.

The men allegedly registered at the hotel as reporters, a fact that has angered journalists' groups.

Paris-based Reporters Without Borders says the men's behavior endangers journalists in a region where reporting is already very dangerous.

Somalia is chaotic after 18 years of internal strife, and foreigners are frequent kidnap targets.

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