Somali armed men stormed into a hotel in the capital Mogadishu on Tuesday and kidnapped two French security consultants working for the government, a hotel worker said. The two French men, whose names were not immediately available, were initially thought to be journalists. But a government official told Reuters that they had pretended to be reporters for their own protection.

“They were security consultants who arrived in Somalia to train state house security guards, not journalists,” said the official.

Several gunmen, some in uniform, entered the Sahafi Hotel threatened the hotel guards and took away the Frenchmen from their hotel rooms, the hotel manager, who declined to be named told Reuters.

“The two males told me they were journalists,” he added.

The hotel is popular with ministers in the government of President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed, and several live there and were in their rooms during the early morning raid.

A police officer who did not want to be named told Reuters that they had captured one of the three cars used by the gunmen.

“We have captured one of the cars,” he said, adding that he did not know where the French men had been taken.

Another witness said the gunmen, some of whom were dressed in uniform similar to that worn by Somali government troops, drove towards Mogadishu’s Bakara market, an Islamist stronghold, he added.

Hardline Islamist insurgents who are fighting the government control all but a few blocks of the capital. Fighting in Somalia since Ethiopian troops ousted the Islamic Courts Union in late 2006 has killed at least 18,000 and sent hundreds of thousands more fleeing from their homes.



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