Somalian Islamists yesterday said they have decided to execute a French intelligence officer they have held for more than three years and who was the object of a botched rescue bid on Saturday.
Militant group al-Shabaab in a statement said it has “reached a unanimous decision to execute the French intelligence officer, Denis Allex.”
Paris has said the officer was most likely killed by his captors during the failed rescue attempt.
A senior al-Shabaab official confirmed to reporters yesterday that Allex “has been sentenced and this judgment will not be changed. As far as we are concerned this man should die.”
Al-Shabaab justified its decision by saying it wanted to avenge “the dozens of Muslim civilians senselessly killed by the French forces during the operation.”
The group also cited “France’s increasing persecution of Muslims around the world, its oppressive anti-Islam policies at home, French military operations in ... Afghanistan and, most recently, in Mali.”
Al-Shabaab has not provided any proof that Allex, presumed to be a pseudonym, is still alive.
The operation to free Allex, held since July 2009, was a failure, with two other French soldiers killed. The French retrieved one of the two bodies. Pictures of the second dead soldier, presented by al-Shabaab as the commander of the raid, have been posted on the Islamists’ Twitter account.
French Minister of Defense Jean-Yves Le Drian on Saturday said that the raid, by the elite DGSE secret service, was sparked by the “intransigence of the terrorists who have refused to negotiate for three-and-a-half years and were holding Denis Allex in inhuman conditions.”
Le Drian said 17 guerrillas were killed in the raid, while witnesses claimed eight civilians died during the operation at Bulomarer, a town south of Mogadishu still in the control of al-Shabaab.
Sources in Somalia said one of the reasons the raid failed was that the rebels had received advance warning, which senior al-Shabaab commander Sheikh Mohamed Ibrahim confirmed to reporters by telephone.
Le Drian’s explanation was that French troops had underestimated the Islamist rebels’ strength when they launched the operation involving about 50 troops and at least five helicopters — and some help from Washington.
US President Barack Obama has said that US forces provided limited technical support for the operation, but said they had played no role in the fighting.