Mogadishu — The two Frenchmen consulted as security advisers for Somalia's U.N.-backed interim government were kidnapped by suspected fighters loyal to Hizbul Islam insurgent group from Hotel Sahafi in Mogadishu.
Hizbul Islam is considered the more moderate of the two Islamist rebel factions waging war to overthrow the Somali interim government.
Sources close to Al Shabaab and Hizbul Islam confidentially told Garowe Online that Hizbul Islam had succumbed to pressure from Al Shabaab to "share" the French hostages. One of the hostages was "transferred" to Al Shabaab yesterday.
But on Friday, Al Shabaab fighters "used force" to snatch away the second hostage from the hands of Hizbul Islam gunmen, the sources added.
"Both men are now in our custody," said a member of Al Shabaab who spoke on the condition of anonymity. Separately, a top Hizbul Islam militia commander said the group "peacefully handed over" the French hostages to Al Shabaab "to avoid bloodshed."
He rejected reports that Al Shabaab guerrillas used force to seize the hostages. It is not clear what Al Shabaab will do to the hostages, but Western and regional powers have repeatedly accused Al Shabaab of having links to Al Qaeda.
Separately, Somali Prime Minister Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmake condemned the kidnapping of the French security advisers and demanded that Hizbul Islam release the hostages immediately.
But the Prime Minister did not mention the government soldiers who reportedly "helped" Hizbul Islam fighters to successfully kidnap the Frenchmen.
Some reports said Al Shabaab hardliners have asked that those government soldiers be turned over to them, but the latest reports say that no one knows the whereabouts of those soldiers.
Somalia's interim government in Mogadishu relies on security support from some professional soldiers and a host ex-insurgents, some of whom switch alliances randomly.