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It's not clear whether a French intelligence agent is dead or alive after a botched rescue attempt in Somalia on Saturday morning. As the AP reports:
"France says the agent, code-name Denis Allex, was killed in the raid, along with a French commando and 17 Islamist militants. But the militant group al-Shabab, which held Allex for more than three years, says it still has Allex and claims to have captured a French soldier."
"The overnight operation was carried out by French special forces brought in by helicopter to a location in southern Somalia controled by the Islamist al-Shabab movement," BBC reporter Hugh Scofield told our Newscast unit. The firefight that followed was loud and left bodies in the streets, residents told BBC and AFP reporters.
Al-Shabab insists that Allex, kidnapped in July 2009, "remains safe and far from the location of the battle." However, it warned in a statement:
"As a response to this botched rescue operation by the French forces, Harakat Al-Shabaab Al-Mujahideen assures the French people that it will give its final verdict regarding the fate of Dennis Allex within two days."
The operation came while French airstrikes on the other side of Africa drove back Islamic rebels from a city in Mali overnight. French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said there was no connection between two efforts, but the failed rescue attempt could have wider repercussions, particularly for the nine other French hostages being held across North Africa – at least seven of whom are in Mali.