Somalia: French captive escapes, colleague may face Islamic court

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A French security adviser deployed in Somalia to train troops from the UN-backed interim government, which is battling Islamist rebels for control of the country, is set to return to his family after escaping from captivity. However al-Shaba leaders had said that Mr. Aubriere and his still detained colleague would be tried under Islamic law for alleged spying and conspiracy against Islam.

Marc Aubriere and his colleague were kidnapped by Hizbul-Islamin rebellion on 14 July and after a month in captivity, Mr. Aubriere was able to escape and make his way to the presidential palace, where he found solace. “I escaped at midnight last night. The guards were very tired and sleepy. I didn’t kill anyone or injure anyone while escaping,” Mr Aubriere is quoted as saying. “Of course I feel better than one day ago. Yes I feel very well. I’m happy and I will soon see my family,” he added.

Kidnappings for ransom have been on the rise in recent times in Somalia, with journalists and aid workers often targeted. Some reports had claimed that Mr Aubriere killed three militants as he fled, whilst other reports claimed that he was released after a ransom was paid, but the French foreign ministry has denied both insinuations. “Despite certain allegations and rumors, Mr. Aubriere’s escape happened without violence and France did not pay any ransom,” Eric Chevallier, French Foreign Ministry spokesman reiterated.

Hizbul-Islam is not as radical as al-Shaba even though both groups are said to have links to al-Qaeda and have been reinforced by foreign fighters. Unlike Al-Shabab fighters, Hizbul-Islam cares about their public image and is more humane with their captors. Mr. Aubriere confirmed that prior to his escape; he had been well-treated and well-fed by his captors from the hard-line Hizbul-Islam. “The militants who were holding me treated me well, they were giving me nice food,” he told The Associated Press before boarding a plane to leave Mogadishu.

There are concerns about Mr. Aubriere’s colleague who was captured by the more radical, intolerant and extreme al-Shabab fighters. Mr. Chevallier confirmed that Mr. Aubriere’s colleague was still being detained by al-Shabab, but did not issue any details, citing security reasons: The French agents were in Somalia to train Somali government forces, which are fighting Islamist insurgents.

Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu, continues to experience battles between government and insurgent forces on almost a daily basis. Tens of thousands of civilians have been killed. Various Islamist groups have been fighting the U.N.-backed government since being chased from power 20 years ago. Experts and observers nurse fears that the country’s lawlessness could provide a haven for al-Qaeda, offering a place for terrorists to train and gather strength.

However, the Obama administration is working to lower the growing terrorist threat without sending in American troops. They recently increased aid to Somalia by pouring resources into the weak government headed by President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed.

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