13 Jan 2013

French soldier killed in failed Somalia operation

9:35 am on 13 January 2013

A French soldier has been killed in a failed operation to free a hostage captured in Somalia in 2009 and whose fate is unclear.

Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said all the indications were that hostage Denis Allex had been killed by his captors during the operation.

But al-Shabab militants said Mr Allex, an agent of France's DGSE intelligence service, was not in the area and was unharmed.

Mr Le Drian told reporters in Paris that a second soldier was missing after the operation, the BBC reports.

A battle erupted with al-Shabab militants after commandos swooped on the town of Bulo Marer overnight on Saturday.

Giving no details of its own casualties, al-Shabab said it had killed "several" French soldiers and had captured an injured soldier.

Mr Allex, according to al-Shabaab, was "safe and far from the location of the battle". An announcement about his fate would be made within two days, the group said, promising "bitter consequences" for the French government.

The hostage last appeared in another video in October, looking gaunt and calling on French President Francois Hollande to work for his release.