At least one French soldier has been killed in Somalia during a failed bid to free a French hostage, who is also believed to have died, the French defence minister has said.
The operation to free the secret agent, with the alias of Denis Allex, was launched by France’s elite DGSE secret service, Jean-Yves Le Drian said in a statement on Saturday, adding that another French soldier was missing.
“All indications are (that Allex was) killed by his captors,” Le Drian said.
He had earlier spoken of two dead troops.
Francois Hollande, the French president, has expressed his great distress over the deaths and extended his condolences to the families of victims.
But the al-Qaeda-linked al-Shebab armed group denied Le Drian’s assertion that they had killed the hostage, adding that they would decide his fate in two days.
The al-Shabab statement said “the helicopters attacked a house … upon the assumption that Denis Allex was being held at that location, but owing to a fatal intelligence blunder, the rescue mission turned disastrously wrong”.
“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.
“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.”
Allex is among nine French hostages in Africa of whom at least six are held by al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).
Read the rest at Al Jazeera English.