October 6, 2014 / 1:58 PM / 3 years ago

France denies U.S. media story on al Qaeda defector agent: source

PARIS (Reuters) - A French defense ministry source denied on Monday a U.S. media report that a French intelligence officer had defected to al Qaeda’s branch in Syria and was being targeted for elimination by U.S. air strikes.

McClatchy DC, a Washington DC-based news web site, reported citing several European intelligence sources that the former French officer was the highest ranking defector to go over to al Qaeda and that coalition powers had failed to kill him in several air strikes.

“After checks this morning, we can assert that the information concerning supposed links between the jihadist cited by the press and French intelligence services is totally erroneous,” the French defense source said.

McClatchy cited sources saying the man, described as a former member of military intelligence, special forces or the external intelligence services, had survived attacks on eight locations held by the al Qaeda-linked Nusra front in Syria.

The coalition preferred to use missile strikes rather than capture the man to avoid his identity being revealed, McClatchy cited sources as saying.

Reporting By John Irish and Nicholas Vinocur; Editing by Dominic Evans

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