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MOGADISHU: Somalia’s Al Qaeda-linked Shebab said yesterday a French soldier wounded and captured during a failed hostage rescue raid has died and published pictures of the purported commando chief.
“The French soldier who was part of the invasion to Somalia died (from) the injury he sustained,” Shebab military spokesman Abdulaziz Abu Musab said by telephone. “Our medical staff attempted to help him but he was unlucky.”
France’s military operation on Saturday to free a French spy held hostage by the Shebab since July 2009 was a failure, with another French soldier killed and the situation of the hostage unclear.
The Shebab, who claim the hostage is alive, said they would announce later their decision regarding his fate, while France believes he was killed during the rescue attempt.
The Shebab have posted on their Twitter account two pictures they claim are of a French commando chief killed in the botched raid.
The French defence ministry earlier had expressed fears that the Somali Islamists would put on display the bodies of the missing French soldier and the hostage.
“All indications unfortunately lead us to believe that the Shebab are preparing to organise a disgraceful and macabre display” of the bodies, Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said.
The gruesome image recalled the incident in 1993 when the bodies of US soldiers were dragged through the streets and mutilated in Mogadishu, after a battle between US forces and Somali militia fighters.
The Shebab have displayed the body of an alleged French commander in photographs. One depicts him dressed in a black button-up shirt and khaki trousers, lying face up on an orange surface next to presumably his combat gear. A small crucifix was seen around his neck.
“Francois Hollande... was it worth it?”, read a caption addressed to France’s president on a second photo in which the dead man is seen with bullet magazines and an assortment of guns and other tools of war strewn around and on top of him.
The operation by France’s elite DGSE secret service was an attempt to rescue an intelligence agent with the name Denis Allex, who had been held by the Somali militants for three and a half years. Le Drian said on Saturday that the raid 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.”
The minister said at the weekend that a French soldier was missing, but yesterday said it now appeared that the soldier had died. He did not indicate that he was a commander. At the same time the Shebab extremists have denied Le Drian’s assertion that they had killed the hostage.