Somali militants linked to al Qaeda said on Thursday they had executed a French agent whom French armed forces had tried to rescue at the weekend.
"16:30 GMT, Wednesday, 16 January, 2013. Denis Allex is executed," the al Shabaab rebel group said on its Twitter feed Thursday, with the report confirmed by a senior Shebab official who said the group might release audio and video of the "execution."
"Audio and video are available and will be released any time we decide," he told AFP, saying the hostage, whose name is likely a pseudonym, was killed in Bulomarer, a town south of Mogadishu still under Shebab control.
"Let Muslims enjoy his execution and the French cry," Sheikh Abdiasis Abu Musab, al Shabaab's spokesman for military operations, told Reuters by telephone.
The militants said on Wednesday the decision to kill Allex was unanimous and followed three years of what it called exhaustive attempts at negotiation.
France has consistently said it believed Allex was killed in Saturday's failed rescue mission and have accused the militants of manipulating the media with their latest statements.
Two French commandos were killed in the failed raid which coincided with the launch of French air strikes against Islamist militants in the West African country of Mali. The French retrieved one of the bodies. Pictures of the second soldier, presented by the al Shabaab as the commander of the raid, have been posted on the Islamists’ Twitter account.
Witnesses said eight civilians died during the raid to free Allex.
The group also cited "France’s increasing persecution of Muslims around the world, its oppressive anti-Islam policies at home, French military operations in … Afghanistan and, most recently, in Mali."
French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said Saturday that the raid, by the elite DGSE secret service, was sparked by the "intransigence of the terrorists who have refused to negotiate for three and a half years and were holding Denis Allex in inhuman conditions."
Le Drian’s explanation was that French troops had underestimated the Islamist rebels’ strength when they launched the operation involving some 50 troops and at least five helicopters — and some help from Washington.
President Barack Obama has acknowledged that US forces provided limited technical support for the operation, but said they had played no role in the fighting.
Denis Allex is the longest held French hostage overseas since French-Colombian Ingrid Betancourt, who had been held for more than six years by Colombian guerrillas until being rescued by Colombia’s security forces in 2008.