Islamist insurgent groups in Somalia have split up two French hostages, following a dispute over which group should hold them.

Somali officials and rebels say the Hizbul Islam group handed over one of the hostages Thursday to fellow Islamist group al-Shabab.

The groups had been in a tense standoff over who should have custody of the men, who were kidnapped from a Mogadishu hotel on Tuesday.

Somali officials say they are negotiating for the men's release.  Social affairs minister Ali Ibrahim told France 24 television that the hostages are in good health and that the Somali Prime Minister Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke had spoken to one of the hostages to "reassure him."

France says the two men were in Somalia on an "official mission" to advise the Somali government on security matters.

The Somali government recently appealed for foreign help to fight the militant Islamists, who control much of southern Somalia and parts of the capital.

It it not clear whether the French nationals were kidnapped for ransom or political reasons.

So far, neither France, the Somali government, nor the insurgents have released the hostages' names.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and AP.