14 January, 2013

Confusion after French commando operation in Somalia

Confusion after French commando operation in Somalia

Christina Mackenzie 

French defense forces have been busy this weekend in Africa, not only in Mali as Amy Svitak has posted, but also in Somalia where confusion reigns over the results of a commando raid which took place overnight Friday to Saturday to free a French intelligence agent who was kidnapped three and a half years ago.

French defense minister Jean-Yves Le Drian says he believes the agent, known by his cover name Denis Allex, was killed in the raid but the kidnappers, an Islamist group called Shehab, say he is still alive and being held far from the site of the French commando raid. However they have not so far provided any proof that this is true.

French president François Hollande saluted the “sacrifice of two French soldiers” in this raid, but his defense minister spoke of one French soldier killed and one missing. Shehab claim they hold one injured soldier, but again have not provided any proof.

The operation was based from the BPC Mistral cruising in the Indian Ocean off the Horn of Africa from which at least half a dozen helicopters took off in the dead of night – the date had been carefully chosen a month ago to ensure complete cover of darkness – headed for a place near Bulomarer, south of the Somali capital Mogadiscio, but the French commando group of at least 50 men met stiffer resistance than expected, probably because the Shehab terrorists were warned at the last minute by civilians who saw the helicopters land three kilometers away from where they believed Allex was being held.

President Barack Obama Obama told Congress that U.S. combat aircraft “provided limited technical support” to the French mission, and had “briefly” entered Somali airspace but did not open fire. The aircraft were based at Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti, on Somalia’s northwest border.

The French government says 17 terrorists were killed in the attack, while AFP local reports say eight civilians also died in the attack including a woman and her child.


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