Islamist insurgents are holding two French men kidnapped in the Somali capital Mogadishu on Tuesday after the hostages were handed over to them by their hijackers, an insurgent official confirmed Wednesday.
The hostages, who were snatched from their hotel rooms in the south of the restive city on Tuesday, were handed over to the Islamist insurgent fighters in Somalia by the gunmen who seized them. But it remains unclear which of the two main rebel groups --Al-Shabaab or Hezbul Islam -- is holding the hostages.
"The French mercenaries are in the hands of the Mujahadeens, and that is a great victory for the Jihad in Somalia," an Islamist insurgent commander told Xinhua on condition of anonymity.
The commander would not say which of the two Islamist groups in Somalia was holding the two Frenchmen but reports say the two sides are at logger heads as to who would hold the French abductees after the freelance gunmen who abducted them agreed to transfer them.
This comes as efforts by the Somali government to secure the release of the hostages who were security advisers to the government despite initial statements by hotel authorities said the men were journalists.
Spokesman for the pro-government Islamist militias said the French men were security consultants, adding that efforts to release them would be "hindered" by the transfer of the hostages from freelance gunmen who initially seized the men to anti-government forces.
"We know that the men were transferred to the anti-peace elements that are, according to information we have, on the verge of fighting over the hostages and that is dangerous development and further hinders efforts by the government to release them," said Abdiresak Mohamed Qaylo, spokesman for the pro-government Darwish Forces.
Qaylow said several people were being held in connection with the abduction of the French security advisers for the Somali government which has been lately battling with insurgent fighters from Hezbul Islam and Al-Shabaab in Mogadishu.
The two groups want to establish an Islamic state in Somalia and together control much of southern and central Somalia where they implement strict form of the Islamic Sharia law.