Fears for fate of French hostages in Somalia

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Hope that talks with Islamist rebels in Somalia might lead to the rapid release of two French agents appeared to recede on Sunday, amid conflicting reports over the status of negotiations.

Mogadishu - Hope that talks with Islamist rebels in Somalia might lead to the rapid release of two French agents appeared to recede on Sunday, amid conflicting reports over the status of negotiations.

Speaking in Mogadishu, a senior Somali security official told AFP that discussions with the Shebab militia over the pair's fate had been broken off, while in Paris a senior official insisted the group was "ready to talk".

The pair, French defence officials on a mission to support Somalia's beleaguered transition government, were seized on Monday from a Mogadishu hotel room and are believed to be in the hands of the rebel militia.

"It looks that hopes of negotiations to release the French hostages are fading by the day," the Somali security official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

"All contacts with the captors are called off so far and the government does not know the whereabouts of the pair," he warned.

In Paris, President Nicolas Sarkozy's chief of staff Claude Geant told Europe 1 radio: "The group is ready to talk. Messages have been exchanged but negotiations have not properly speaking begun."

On Saturday, a senior member of the Shebab told AFP that the French pair would be charged with spying and tried under Islamic law in a Sharia court.

Gueant said the French authorities were "submerged under a profusion of contradictory reports" and that he had no reason to believe that talk of a trial was genuine.

AFP / Expatica

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