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January 14, 2013

Somali Rebels to Announce Fate of French Hostage

by VOA News

Somali rebel group al-Shabab says it has reached a decision on the fate of French hostage Dennis Allex, who French forces tried to free in an unsuccessful operation.
 
In a statement Monday, the group said it has reached a "unanimous verdict" on Allex's fate, and that details on the decision will be published in the "coming hours."
 
French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian says one French soldier was killed in the rescue attempt late Friday and another is missing and presumed dead.  He also said officials believe Allex has already been killed by his captors.
 
"As concerns Somalia, I confirm what I have already said: everything leads us to believe that the hostage has been murdered and that the other soldier who is missing has been killed," he said.  "Everything leads us to believe, unfortunately, that the Shabab are about to organize a macabre and obscene show," he said. 
 
Al-Shabab has posted photos of what appeared to be the body of a French soldier to its Twitter account, as well as a photo of captured French weapons. 
 
Seventeen Somali fighters were killed during Friday's raid.  But analyst Roland Marchal with France’s National Center for Scientific Reach tells VOA the French troops were not expecting the level of resistance they met on the ground.
 
"The picture you get is that the Shabab was very armed and on foot was [a] major strength, and the French troops were not expecting that amount of people - well-armed, well-equipped, and ready to fight up to death.  So that is the main miscalculation on that," he said. 
 
U.S. President Barack Obama says the United States provided "limited technical support" to the operation.
 
In a letter to congressional leaders released Sunday by the White House, Obama says U.S. combat planes briefly entered Somali airspace, but U.S. forces and aircraft took no direct part in the raid.
 
Militants kidnapped Allex from his Mogadishu hotel in July, 2009.  Another Frenchman was also captured.  He either escaped or was set free one month later.  The two were in Somalia to train government troops fighting al-Shabab.
 
Allex was last seen in a videotape in October.