PARIS - The Somali government is negotiating with the kidnappers of two French security advisers taken hostage in Mogadishu earlier this week, a Somali minister told French TV.
Social Affairs Minister Mohammed Ali Ibrahim said the two men, abducted Tuesday from their hotel, had been separated and were being held by two different groups. However, he told France 24 television that Somalia's prime minister was able to talk with one of the hostages "to reassure him" and that both men are apparently in good health.
The minister said the hostages were being held in Mogadishu by the Al Shabaab party and the Hizbul Islam party. Both are among Islamist groups fighting the government.
"We are in negotiations with them to obtain their freedom," he said.
The men were abducted while on a mission to train the Somali government forces that are fighting Islamist forces.
Somali Defence Minister Mohamed Abdi Ghandi told RFI radio that arrests had been made in connection with the abductions.
The government agents allegedly posed as journalists when checking into their hotel in Mogadishu, one of the most dangerous cities in the world. The media watchdog group, Reporters Without Borders, criticized the move, saying it could put real reporters in danger.
The French Foreign Ministry said it could not verify that the advisers had posed as journalists. It said the two were in Somalia at the invitation of Somali authorities, as part of France's bid to shore up the country's security forces.