Two French security advisers on a mission
to train Somali forces were kidnapped Tuesday at a hotel where they
had checked in as journalists, officials and witnesses said.
About 10 gunmen arrived at the Sahafi Hotel in a small car and a
pickup truck mounted with machine guns before several of the men
disarmed the guards and stormed inside, said Abdi Mohamed Ahmed, a
witness who runs a tea shop nearby.
Gunmen then knocked on the door where the French men were
staying and kidnapped them when they opened the door, said hotel
manager Mohamed Hassan Gafaa.
"They must have had prior knowledge" of where the men were
staying, Gafaa told The Associated Press by telephone. The
kidnappers "bundled them into their car and sped away," he added.
The French Foreign Ministry released a statement saying the men
were security consultants.
"Two French advisers on an official mission of assistance to
the Somali government were kidnapped this morning in Mogadishu by
armed men," the ministry said. "They were bringing aid concerning
security" to the government.
A senior Somali government official said they were in Somalia to
train government soldiers. The official spoke on condition of
anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation.
No claim of responsibility or demand for a ransom was reported
from the kidnappers.
Foreigners rarely go to Mogadishu, which is among the most
dangerous cities in the world, and when they do they travel only in
convoys with armed guards. Kidnappings for ransom have been on the
rise in recent years, with journalists and aid workers often
targeted. The men seized Tuesday had registered at the Sahafi -
which means journalist in the Arabic and Somali languages - as
French reporters, said Gafaa. He did not give the men's names.
Many fear the power vacuum in Somalia will provide a haven for
terrorists, as the military and police force are weak and in
disarray. But direct attempts by outsiders to intervene in Somalia
have been disastrous in the past.
The U.S. government - haunted by a deadly 1993 U.S. military
assault into the Somali capital chronicled in "Black Hawk Down" -
is carefully working to lower the growing terrorist threat without
sending in American troops. The Obama administration recently moved
to increase aid to Somalia by pouring resources into the weak
Various Islamist groups have been fighting the U.N.-backed
government since being chased from power 2 1/2 years ago. The
situation is complicated by the continual splintering and reforming
of alliances and a tangled web of clan loyalties.
The impoverished Horn of Africa nation has not had a functioning
government for 18 years. Mogadishu sees near daily battles between
government and insurgent forces. Tens of thousands of civilians
have been killed.
The lawlessness has allowed piracy to flourish off the coast,
making the waterway one of the most dangerous in the world.