29/05/08 (B449-B) AFP / Les kidnappers des deux italiens et de leurs collègues auraient transféré leurs otages du sud de la Somalie vers Mogadiscio. / Kidnappers relocate Italian, Somali hostages to Mogadishu: official (En Anglais – Info lecteur)

MOGADISHU (AFP) — Two Italian aid workers and a Somali colleague kidnapped in southern Somalia last week have been moved by their captors to the capital Mogadishu, a local official said Wednesday.

"We don’t know which part of town they are, but we have confirmed that the two Italian aid workers and their Somali colleague are held inside Mogadishu," said Abdulkadir Sheikh Mohamed Nur, the governor of Lower Shabelle region.

"We are still tracing them although its out of the region we control," added Nur, who rules the region where they were seized.

The three, who worked for humanitarian group, Cooperazione Italiana Nord-Sud (CINS), or North-South Italian Cooperation, were kidnapped on May 20 in Awdhegle village, 70 kilometres (45 miles) south of Mogadishu.

A family member for the non-Italian hostage Abderahman Yusuf Arale, the local head of the Italian aid group, confirmed the transfer and said the kidnappers had asked for ransom.

"We got information that the Italians and their Somali colleague, who is my relative, are in Mogadishu and the kidnappers have asked ransom, a huge amount of money but negotiations are still going on to solve the matter peacefully," said the relative, who requested anonymity.

"They did not allow us to talk to them (hostages) directly on the phone but they told us that they are kept somewhere in Mogadishu," he added.

Kidnappers are also holding two aid workers, a Kenyan and a Briton, seized in April in southern Somalia, whose whereabouts remain unknown.

The United Nations and aid groups have scaled down operations in Somalia owing to increased insecurity, largely blamed on Islamist militants who have waged a deadly guerrilla war since they were ousted by joint Somali-Ethiopian forces in early 2007