Al-Shabaab fighters conducting military drills outside the Somalian capital of Mogadishu. The US is behind an international attempt to crush the resistance movement., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
2 French commandos killed in failed Somalia hostage rescue operation
Sat Jan 12, 2013 9:2AM GMT
Somali al-Shabab militants have killed two French commandos involved in a botched operation to free a French secret agent taken hostage in the African country more than three years ago.
At least five French helicopters and 50 troops were involved in a Saturday night air raid on a house in the town of Bulomarer, nearly 110 kilometres (70 miles) south of the Somali capital Mogadishu.
Somali militants said the hostage is "alive."
"(Denis) Allex still remains safe and far from the location of the battle," al-Shebab militant group said in a news release. "As a response to this botched rescue operation by the French forces, (the Shebab) assures the French people that it will give its final verdict regarding the fate of Denis Allex within two days."
French defense ministry, however, said the secret agent was killed by the militants. "During the assault, violent combat took place. Denis Allex was killed by his captors."
The ministry added that some 17 militants were also killed in the incident.
Sheikh Mohamed Abdallah, a local commander in Bulomarer, controlled by al-Shabab fighters, said that they "defeated the so-called commandos of the French government who tried to rescue a hostage, and they (the commandos) left the bodies of several of their own at the site of the attack."
People in the area saw several bodies, including that of a white man and three civilians, said Idris Youssouf, a resident of the town, hours after the failed midnight operation.
Allex was abducted in conflict-plagued Somalia in July 2009 along with another colleague who was released the following month.
In June 2010, Allex, who is among nine French captives in Africa, appeared in a video and requested Paris to withdraw its support for the government of Somalia.
He last appeared in a video clip in October 2012 and pleaded with French President Francois Hollande to negotiate his release and save his life.
Somalia has not had a functioning government since 1991, when warlords overthrew former dictator Mohamed Siad Barre.
The weak Western-backed transitional government in Mogadishu has been battling al-Shabab fighters for the past five years and is propped up by thousands of African Union forces from Uganda, Burundi, and Djibouti.