Armed men have abducted two foreigners, said to be French nationals, from a hotel in the Somali capital of Mogadishu.
The two were kidnapped from Sahafi hotel in the war-torn city on Tuesday, police and staff at the hotel confirmed.
Sources told Al Jazeera's correspondent that the men were security consultants. But several new agencies quoted the hotel's staff as saying that the abducted men were French journalists.
Mohamed Ali, a Somali police spokesman, was quoted by the AFP news agency as saying: "Two foreigners have been kidnapped this morning by a large group of gunmen."
Abdi Mohamed Ahmed, who owns a tea shop in front of the Sahafi Hotel in Mogadishu, said about 10 armed men disarmed the hotel's guards Tuesday morning and kidnapped the foreigners.
The abductions follow a flare-up of violence around Mogadishu's presidential palace.
'Show of force'
Witnesses said fighters retreated from areas around the palace on Monday, after a day of fighting in which dozens of people were killed and wounded about 150 others.
African Union (AU) peacekeepers directly intervened for the first time to support government forces.
But a spokesman for the AU force, whose remit allows them only to protect government buildings and defend themselves if attacked, told Al Jazeera that the troops actions were a "show of force" rather than combat engagement.
An Associated Press reporter saw several bodies and two AU tanks on the front line Sunday.
Government forces used rocket-propelled grenades and anti-aircraft guns mounted on the back of lorries, which they fired horizontally through the streets.
Sporadic gunfire could still be heard late into the night following the fighters' retreat.
Various armed groups, some of them allegedly linked to al-Qaeda, have been fighting the UN-backed government since being chased from power over two years ago.
Mogadishu sees near-daily battles between government force and the fighters, with thousands of civilians killed in recent years.