Two French commandos killed and hostage murdered by captors after daring helicopter raid on Somali militants ends in disaster
Militant group al-Shabab had held French soldier Denis Allex since 2009French spies stormed house after arriving in five helicoptersThree civilians and 17 Islamists also killed during fire fight
Operation came hours after pilot died during French attacks on Malian militants
, looking gaunt, he sent a video message to new President Francois Hollande, telling how his hopes of a rescue were fading by the day.
He calls on France to drop its 'oppressive attitude' towards Muslims and says Mr Hollande represented his last hope of rescue.
Poignantly, he adds: 'I am alive. But for how long'
Residents in Somaila reported hearing explosions and gunfire during the raid to rescue Allex.
Mohamed Ali said: 'We heard a series of explosions followed by gunfire just seconds after a helicopter flew over the town.
'We don't know exactly what happened but the place was an al-Shabab base and checkpoint.'
Another resident, Idris Youssouf, told AFP that details were sketchy because the attack had happened at night.
'But this morning we saw several corpses including that of a white man,' he added.
Allex, who was married with children, was kidnapped from a hotel by the Islamist group al-Shabab in the capital Mogadishu on July 14, 2009 with a colleague who later escaped.
They were in Somalia to train government forces, which are fighting Islamist militiamen.
After his abduction al-Shabab issued a series of demands, which included an end to French support for the Somali government and the withdrawal of African Union peacekeepers, whose 17,600-strong troops are helping battle the rebels.
The failed rescue attempt came on the heels of French military intervention in Mali to help the country against al-Qaida-linked militants.
Denis Allex was killed in the Somali town of Bulo Marer, three years after he was captured in the capital, Mogadishu
A member of Somalia's al Shabaab militant group (file pic).
French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian confirmed the failed mission to rescue Denis Allex
French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told reporters in Paris the country is 'engaged in a merciless fight against terrorism wherever it is found'.
WHO ARE AL-SHABAB
It was formed as a radical offshoot of the Union of Islamic Courts in 2006.
Affiliated to al-Qaeda, it controls large swathes of south and central Somalia and in 2010 it was responsible for the deaths of 76 people in a double attack in Uganda during 2010 football World Cup.
It is estimated to have 7,000 to 9,000 fighters. al-Shabab means 'The Youth' in Arabic.
A French intelligence official, speaking before news of the deaths filtered through, said: 'We are aware of the deaths of several al-Shabab fighters during the operation.
'Helicopters dropped off soldiers to rescue the man.'
The office of Col. Thierry Burkhard, the French military’s main spokesman for overseas operations, said it had no information about any Somalia action.
An al-Shabab official confirmed that fighting began after helicopters dropped off soldiers.
'Five helicopters attacked a house in the town. They dropped soldiers off the ground, so that they could reach their destination… but fighting has broken out,' he said.
'We had Mujahideen fighters already deployed there who fought back the French soldiers. We killed some of their soldiers but only one dead soldier in a French military uniform is in our hands now.'
VIDEO Denis Allex pleads with French government to help him escape in July 2012
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