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Terrorism & Security

France rejects Somali rebels' terms for releasing hostage

France says it will continute to support the Western-backed Mogadishu government as legitimate. At least eight Western workers are held hostage in the country.

By Jonathan Adams / September 17, 2009



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France swiftly rejected four conditions demanded by Somali radicals Thursday for the release of a French security official held hostage since July.

Al-Shabab, the insurgent group with alleged links to Al Qaeda, demanded that France stop supporting Somalia's government, remove all French personnel from the country, withdraw its Navy from antipiracy patrols in Somali coastal waters, and get the African Union to withdraw its peacekeepers.

The demands come as the group has vowed revenge for Monday's US commando raid into Somalia, which killed six fighters, including a top terror suspect with ties to Al Qaeda. That raid has raised concerns of reprisals against Western hostages in Somalia.

The French government quickly dismissed the insurgents' demands, Agence France-Presse reported.

Al-Shabab also demanded that France "release all the prisoners of the holy warriors held in many areas, which we will reveal later," according to the Associated Press. It reported that the French hostage was one of two on a training mission.

Somalia hasn't had a functioning government for 18 years, and is considered one of the world's most hazardous countries.

The country is wracked by violence between several armed groups including Al Shabab, which hopes to topple the weak, Western-backed government in Mogadishu. Al Shabab now controls perhaps a third of the country. (See a map illustrating who controls what parts of the country, from Le Monde.)

At least eight Western aid workers, journalists, or security personnel are still being held hostage in Somalia, according to a Reuters list.

A BBC reporter recently described what it was like to move around the country.

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