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Witnesses: 2 French journalists seized in Somalia
(Agencies)
Updated: 2009-07-14 16:29

MOGADISHU, Somalia: Gunmen stormed into a hotel in the Somali capital on Tuesday morning and kidnapped two French journalists, the hotel manager and an eyewitness said.

About 10 gunmen arrived in a car and a pickup truck mounted with machine guns at the Sahafi Hotel in Mogadishu and disarmed the hotel guards, said Abdi Mohamed Ahmed, who owns a teashop in front of the hotel. The manager, Mohamed Hassan Gafaa, said several gunmen then went door-to-door inside the hotel until they found the foreign men.

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"They grabbed the two French journalists and bundled them into their car and sped away," Gafaa told The Associated Press.

Foreigners rarely go to Mogadishu, which is among the most dangerous cities in the world, and when they do they travel only in convoys with armed guards.

Various Islamist groups have been fighting the UN-backed government since being chased from power two and a half years ago. The situation is complicated by the continual splintering and reforming of alliances and a tangled web of clan loyalties.

The impoverished Horn of Africa nation has not had a functioning government for 18 years. Mogadishu sees near-daily battles between government and insurgent forces. Thousands of civilians have been killed in recent years.

The lawlessness has allowed piracy to flourish off the coast, and kidnappings for ransom on land have also become increasingly common.