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Africa

Kidnapped French agents 'to be tried under sharia law'

Video by Katherine SPENCER

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2009-07-20

Two French agents held by rebels in Somalia will be tried soon under Islamic sharia law, an official of the radical Shabaab group said, as a Somali minister told FRANCE 24 that the pair had been taken out of Mogadishu.

Two French agents held by rebels in Somalia will be tried soon under Islamic sharia law, an official of the radical Shabaab group told AFP.

A Somali minister told FRANCE 24 the pair had been taken out of Mogadishu and expressed concern for their safety.

"The men were caught assisting the apostate government and their spies, so they will soon be tried and punished under the Sharia law, they will face the justice court for spying and entering Somalia to assist the enemy of Allah," a senior Shabaab officer told AFP on condition of anonymity.
   
"The decision about their fate will depend on the outcome of the Islamic court that will hear the charges against them," he added.
   
The two agents were snatched at gunpoint from their hotel in central Mogadishu early Tuesday. They are being held by Islamic insurgents battling to overthrow Somalia's transitional government supported by the international community.
   
Somalia's social affairs minister, Mohammed Ali Ibrahim, told FRANCE 24 that the two men had been taken out of the capital to a nearby town, possibly Marka, to the south.

"As long as they were here, there were contacts," he said. "Intermediaries were in contact with Shabaab and we knew they were in good health, but this morning they were taken away."

"We must be concerned about them and take strong action," he added without specifying what the action might be.
   
He said France was putting pressure on Eritrea, which supports and allegedly arms Shabaab and other extremists in Somalia (something Asmara denies), and that the Somali government was also sending envoys to Shabaab.

"They trade in human beings," Ibrahim said. "Either they kill them or they demand an enormous ransom."

Ibrahim had told FRANCE 24 on Friday that Shabaab might be seeking to exchange the agents for Somali pirates jailed in France.

"As long as they're with the Shabaab, negotiations will be hard," he said. "The demands are not clear."

French President Nicolas Sarkozy's chief of staff, Claude Gueant, said Friday that Paris did not believe the men were in imminent danger and had probably been held for ransom.

"We're heading into tortuous bargaining for their freedom, and it could take a while," he said.

Foreigners are regularly kidnapped in Somalia, which has been mired in civil war since 1991, and usually freed in return for a ransom.

On Saturday, three foreign aid workers were reported kidnapped overnight in a Kenyan town close to the Somali border by armed men, who took them into Somalia, a Somali government official told AFP.

The nationalities of the aid workers and the organisation they worked for were not immediately known.

Date created : 2009-07-18

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