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French agent escapes kidnappers in Somalia

French agent escapes kidnappers in Somalia

A French security agent kidnapped by insurgents in Somalia escaped early Wednesday, Somali officials said.
The agent, one of two kidnapped last month, is safe in the presidential palace and "in a good mood," said Abdulkadir Hussein Wehliye, the assistant information secretary of the presidential palace.
There were conflicting reports on whether the agent had killed some of his captors.
Farhan Asanyo, a military officer, said the man unexpectedly came up to government soldiers early Wednesday, identified himself and said he had escaped after killing three of his captors.
But the French Foreign Ministry denied the report of killings, saying "his liberation came about without violence, contrary to certain information given locally."
The fate of the other captive was not immediately clear. The French men were abducted in July from a hotel in Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia, then split up between the rebel groups al-Shabab and its ally Hizbul-Islam.
The French agents were in the country to train Somali government forces, which are fighting Islamist militiamen. Militants had said the two would be tried under Islamic law for alleged spying and conspiracy against Islam.
Foreigners rarely travel to Somalia, which is among the most dangerous countries in the world. The country has not had a functioning government for 18 years since clan warlords overthrew a brutal dictator then unleashed their militias on each other.
Kidnappings for ransom have been on the rise in recent years, with journalists and aid workers often targeted. Two foreign journalists _ Canadian Amanda Lindhout and Australian Nigel Brennan _ have been held for a year.
Somalia's lawlessness also has allowed piracy to flourish off its coast, making the Gulf of Aden one of the most dangerous waterways in the world.
Many fear the power vacuum in Somalia will provide a haven for terrorists, as the military and police force are weak and in disarray. 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 constant splintering and reforming of alliances and a web of clan loyalties.
Somalia's capital, Mogadishu, sees near-daily battles between government and insurgent forces. Tens of thousands of civilians have been killed.
The U.S. government _ haunted by a deadly 1993 U.S. military assault in Mogadishu chronicled in "Black Hawk Down" _ is working to lower the growing terrorist threat without sending in American troops. The Obama administration recently increased aid to Somalia by pouring resources into the weak government.
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Associated Press Writer Mohamed Sheikh Nor contributed to this report.


Updated : 2020-12-02 15:17 GMT+08:00