A second French soldier has died from gunshot wounds after an attempt to rescue a French agent failed on Saturday, Somalia’s al-Shabaab rebel group said yesterday.
The al-Qaeda-linked militants put up fierce resistance when French forces went into southern Somalia by helicopter under the cover of darkness on Saturday to try to free Denis Allex, held hostage since 2009.
The outcome of the mission was unclear. French President Francois Hollande on Saturday said the operation had failed despite the “sacrifice” of two soldiers and “no doubt the assassination of our hostage.”
However, earlier that day France’s defense ministry said one of the two Frenchmen was missing in action, stoking speculation that the soldier had been captured alive.
A ministry source said yesterday that the government believed both commandos were dead, but it did not have the bodies.
“The second commando died from his bullet wounds. We shall display the bodies of the two Frenchmen,” Sheikh Abdiasis Abu Musab, spokesman for al-Shabaab’s military operations, said by telephone.
Musab said that Allex was alive and his fate would be decided later.
Allex was one of two officers from France’s DGCE intelligence agency kidnapped by al-Shabaab three-and-a-half years ago in Mogadishu.
Witnesses said at least eight civilians were killed in Saturday’s rescue attempt and Somalis expressed anger over the assault.
“They killed innocent civilians and left without accomplishing anything. The people here are very disappointed in the French government on account of the civilian victims,” Moalim Ahmed Nur said.
“We were told there were about 40 of them against more than 100 heavily armed Shebab fighters,” said another Somali, who wished to remain anonymous. “Their mission was impossible and not very professional.”