One of two French security advisers kidnapped by insurgents in Somalia last month escaped on Wednesday after killing three of his captors and fled to the presidential palace in Mogadishu, police said.

Gunmen had seized the Frenchmen at a hotel in the capital on July 14 then handed one to the Hizbul Islam rebels and the other to fighters from the al Shabaab group, which Washington describes as al Qaeda’s proxy in the Horn of Africa state.

Al Shabaab militants said they had later taken custody of both men, although that could not be confirmed. Somali government officials at the city’s hilltop Villa Somalia palace said the man who escaped was in good health.

“We understand he killed three al Shabaab guys who were guarding him. I cannot understand how this good story happened but now he is in the hands of the government,” Abdiqadir Odweyne, a senior police commander, told Reuters.

Somalia’s fragile U.N.-backed government faces a stubborn insurgency that includes foreign jihadists and militants who Western security agencies say are using the country as a safe haven to plot attacks in the region and beyond.

An al Shabaab source confirmed three of its members had been killed, but said it was not known by whom: “Three of my friends died but who killed them is the question. We were expecting a ransom this morning,” the rebel source said.

One associate of the kidnappers said the Frenchman had been freed after talks with Somali elders. A senior Somali government official said a ransom had been paid for his release.



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