France hostage rescue mission in Somalia fails spectacularly as Islamists kill 2 soldiers, but lose 17 men
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Le Drian said one French soldier died in the operation and a second was missing.
PLEADING FOR LIFE
The Defence Ministry earlier said 17 Somali fighters were killed in the fighting that had been prompted by "the intransigence of the terrorists, who refused to negotiate for three and half years".
Allex was one of two French intelligence officers from the DGSE intelligence agency who were kidnapped by al Shabaab in Mogadishu in July 2009 but his colleague, Marc Aubriere, escaped a month later.
Allex had been held ever since, in what France called "inhumane conditions".
The ministry said he was kidnapped when he was carrying out an official aid mission with the Somali government. France has previously said the two men were in the Somali capital to train local forces.
A video of Allex pleading with Hollande to negotiate his release and save his life appeared on a website in October used by Islamist militant groups around the world. Reuters could not verify its authenticity.
Hollande said at the time the government was seeking to start talks with any party able to facilitate Allex's release.
After his abduction, al Shabaab 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.
Under pressure from the peacekeeping troops and Somali government forces, al Shabaab has lost many of its major urban strongholds in south-central Somalia since it launched a rebellion against the Western-backed government in 2007.
The rebels, who want to impose their strict interpretation of sharia Islamic law across the Horn of Africa state, withdrew from the capital Mogadishu in August last year and lost their last major bastion of Kismayu six weeks ago.
A Somali government official in Bula Mareer, a town about 120 km (75 miles) south of Mogadishu, said the helicopters attacked overnight.
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