Somali Islamists say French hostage sentenced to death

Wed Jan 16, 2013 11:13am EST
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By Feisal Omar

MOGADISHU (Reuters) - Somali militants linked to al Qaeda said on Wednesday they had sentenced a French agent to death after a failed attempt by French armed forces to rescue him at the weekend.

It was unclear whether the rebels were saying they had already killed Denis Allex, held hostage in Somalia since 2009. France said it had heard nothing since the military raid to alter its belief that he was killed during the rescue operation.

Al Shabaab said in a statement their decision to kill Allex was unanimous and followed three years of what it called "exhaustive attempts at negotiations" over his release.

The militants put up fierce resistance when French commandos flew into southern Somalia by helicopter under cover of darkness early on Saturday to try to free Allex.

Two of the commandos died in the raid.

"With the rescue attempt ... France has voluntarily signed Allex's death warrant," al Shabaab said in an emailed statement that was also posted on the group's official Twitter handle.

"It is the government of France ... which must bear full responsibility for the death of Allex," it said.

On Wednesday, Edouard Guillard, chief of staff for the French armed forces, told Europe 1 Radio there had been nothing since the raid to suggest Allex was alive and the rebels were engaged in "media manipulation."   Continued...