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Al Qaeda-linked group holds both French hostages

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Insurgent sources said on Friday that both French hostages are now being held by a single rebel group; the al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab movement. The two French agents were abducted on Tuesday and split up between rival rebel groups.


Reuters - Somalia’s al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab movement has taken possession of both French hostages seized in Mogadishu after winning a tussle with another rebel group holding one of them, insurgent sources said on Friday.


“We have handed over to al Shabaab the second French man,” a militia leader of the Hizbul Islam rebel group, who asked not to be named, told Reuters. “We had been arguing a lot, and we were on the verge of killing among ourselves.”


Gunmen stormed a Mogadishu hotel on Tuesday to grab the Frenchmen who were working as security advisers for President Sheikh Sharif’s government.


A government official and rebels said the capture was done by a faction in the government security forces linked to the insurgents. It handed them to Hizbul Islam, who initially shared one with al Shabaab before handing the other man over under pressure on Thursday night, the rebel sources said.


Though there are fears al Shabaab may seek to punish the Frenchmen, the government and many ordinary Somalis believe their motivation is financial.


In the past, most kidnappings of foreigners in Somali have ended with releases after ransom payments.


“This incident is purely for monetary purposes,” Foreign Minister Mohamed Abdullahi Omaar told Reuters.


Western security services view al Shabaab as a proxy for Osama bin Laden’s al Qaeda network in the failed Horn of Africa state, which has been mired in conflict since 1991.


A senior al Shabaab member, reached by Reuters, confirmed the group was holding the Frenchmen but would not comment on their fate. “We have both the French security consultants in our stronghold area,” he told Reuters, declining to be named.


“Our leaders will decide what happens next.”


The men are being held in Mogadishu.


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