14 January 2013

Somalia: Somali Government Regrets Civilian Deaths in Botched French Operation

Photo: Stuart Price/UN
A soldier stands over the weapons seized from suspected members of Al Shabaab (file photo).

The Somali government on Sunday (January 13th) expressed dissatisfaction over a failed French military operation against al-Shabaab in Bulomarer in which eight civilians died, the Somali National News Agency reported.

Somali officials and Mogadishu residents react to the failed French operation on January 12th to free hostage Denis Allex from al-Shabaab militants. Eight Somali civilians were reportedly killed in the incident. [AFP] Play Video

"This was a shocking incident by French military, unfortunately civilians lost their lives," Foreign Minister Fowsiyo Yusuf Haji Aadan said after an emergency government meeting, adding that the Somali government has in the past been able to secure the release of hostages through dialogue.

Eight civilians and 17 al-Shabaab militants reportedly died in the operation, which was an attempt to rescue French intelligence agent Denis Allex who has been held hostage by al-Shabaab since 2009.

One French soldier was killed during the operation and one was reportedly captured by al-Shabaab. "The French soldier who was part of the invasion to Somalia died [from] the injury he sustained," al-Shabaab spokesman Abdulaziz Abu Musab told AFP. "Our medical staff attempted to help him but he was unlucky."

The French defence ministry on Monday expressed fears that al-Shabaab would put on display the bodies of the French soldier and Allex, who France believes was killed during the operation. However, al-Shabaab said Allex is alive and it would soon announce its verdict on the fate of the hostage.

"All indications unfortunately lead us to believe that al-Shabaab are preparing to organise a disgraceful and macabre display" of the bodies, French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said.

Al-Shabaab has since posted photographs on its Twitter account of the body of an alleged French commander.

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