An attempt by French Special Forces to free a French hostage held by the Somali militant Al Shabaab group, went horribly wrong when the hostage was not found in the area. One French soldier is said to have been killed and another taken hostage after being wounded during the firefight.
In a statement to the press later, Al-Shabaab announced it had captured one of the Special Forces soldiers and that the hostage they (the French) had come to rescue was nowhere near the point of attack. Al Shabaab said in a statement that Allex was alive and being held at a location far from the base where French military helicopters attacked overnight. “The injured French soldier is now in the custody of the Mujahedeen and Allex still remains safe and far from the location of the battle,” it said. Al-Shabaab further claimed: “Several French soldiers were killed in the battle and many more were injured before they fled from the scene of battle, leaving behind some military paraphernalia and even one of their comrades on the ground.”
At first French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian had said Saturday the hostage, Denis Allex had been killed by his captors. A French intelligence agency team had on Friday night flown into southern Somalia by helicopter under cover of darkness to try to free Allex, held since 2009, by al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab, on the same day France launched air strikes against Islamist militants in Mali. “Commandos broke into where Allex was being detained last night and immediately faced strong resistance,” Le Drian told a news conference. “Intense combat took place, during which – and now I speak with caution – everything leads us to believe that Denis Allex was unfortunately killed by his captors.”
Paris has been concerned that various French hostages held in Africa would be at risk if it intervened militarily against the al Qaeda-allied fighters in Mali, but Le Drian said the Somalia raid was “totally unconnected” to the Mali operation. The deaths in Somalia coincided with the killing of a pilot in air strikes in Mali, however, striking a double blow to the start of a campaign that represents President Francois Hollande’s biggest foreign policy test since his May election.
A French commando died from wounds sustained in the Somali raid and a second was missing, Le Drian said. The defense ministry said earlier that 17 Somali fighters were killed in a mission prompted by “the intransigence of the terrorists, who refused to negotiate for three and half years”.