On Friday night, January 10, Somali al-Shabab militants killed one French commando involved in the botched operation to rescue Denis Allex, who was taken hostage in Somalia about three and a half years ago.
Another commando has reportedly gone missing, according to French defense ministry. At least five French helicopters and 50 troops were involved in the air raid on a house in the town of Bulomarer, nearly 110 kilometers (70 miles) south of the Somali capital Mogadishu.
"United States forces provided limited technical support to the French forces in that operation, but took no direct part in the assault on the compound where it was believed the French citizen was being held hostage,” US President Barack Obama said on Sunday in a letter to Congress.
"United States combat aircraft briefly entered Somali airspace to support the rescue operation, if needed,” Obama wrote, adding that "these aircraft did not employ weapons during the operation.”
The US president stated that American forces, which participated in the operation, left Somalia by about 8:00 p.m. EST Friday (0100 GMT Saturday). "I directed US forces to support this rescue operation in furtherance of US national security interests,” Obama wrote. On Saturday, al-Shabab said the hostage is alive.
"(Denis) Allex still remains safe and far from the location of the battle,” al-Shebab militants said at a news release. "As a response to this botched rescue operation by the French forces, (al-Shebab) assures the French people that it will give its final verdict regarding the fate of Denis Allex within two days.”
French defense ministry, however, said the secret agent was killed by the militants. "During the assault, violent combat took place. Denis Allex was killed by his captors.” The ministry added that some 17 militants were also killed in the incident.