We executed French hostage to avenge rebel deaths, says Al-Shabab

Al-Shabab says in tweet that it may release audio and video of Frenchman they sentenced to death

PUBLISHED : Friday, 18 January, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 18 January, 2013, 4:19am

Somali militants linked to al-Qaeda said they may release a video of the purported execution of a French agent whom France believed had already died several days ago in a failed rescue attempt.

Al-Shabab rebels have said the death sentence imposed on Denis Allex was to avenge what it called France's growing persecution of Muslims and its military operations around the world against Islamists, including in Mali.

The kidnapping of dozens of hostages at a gas plant in Algeria by Islamist fighters on Wednesday and al-Shabab's execution claim illustrate the fallout from Mali's war against loosely allied bands of al- Qaeda-inspired rebels in Africa and beyond.

"16:30 GMT, Wednesday, 16 January, 2013. Denis Allex is executed," the group said on its Twitter feed yesterday, with the report confirmed by a senior al-Shabab 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 said, saying the hostage, whose name is likely a pseudonym, was killed in Bulomarer, a town south of Mogadishu still under al-Shabab's control.

French commandos on Saturday launched a raid on the town to free the hostage, but the bid failed and resulted in the death of two French soldiers.

Al-Shabab said on Wednesday that they had "reached a unanimous decision to execute" their hostage to avenge "the dozens of Muslim civilians senselessly killed by the French forces during the operation".

Witnesses said eight civilians died during the raid to free Allex.

The French army on Wednesday accused al-Shabab of "manipulating the media" and reaffirmed that Allex was probably already dead.

Allex was one of two officers from the DGSE intelligence agency kidnapped by al-Shabab in Mogadishu in July 2009.

His colleague, Marc Aubriere, escaped a month later, but Allex had been held ever since. After Allex's abduction, al-Shabab issued a string of demands.

These included an end to French support for the Somali government and a withdrawal of the 17,600-strong African peacekeeping force propping up the UN-backed administration.

Reuters, Agence France-Presse