Center for Strategic Communication


Shabaab has released photographs of a French commando who was captured during a failed raid to free a hostage late last week. The French commando, who was initially reported as captured, died in Shabaab custody, the al Qaeda affiliate said. Shabaab also said it has “reached a unanimous verdict on the fate” of Denis Allex, the French intelligence operative who has been in custody since the summer of 2009, but has not disclosed what will be done with him.

French commandos attempted to free Allex, who they believed was being held at a safe house in Bula-Marer, a town under Shabaab control. Two French commandos and 17 Shabaab fighters are reported to have been killed; Shabaab has claimed that only two of its fighters and numerous civilians were killed during the the French operations.

Shabaab released three photographs of the commando as well as a photograph of captured weapons along with an official statement on its Twitter site, @HSMPress (Harakat Al-Shabaab Al Mujahideen Press Office). The terror group claimed the Frenchman pictured was the “the French commander leading the operation.” The rank of the commando who was captured has not been confirmed by French officials.

“The commander was deserted by his comrades after a fierce firefight and subsequently captured by the Mujahideen,” Shabaab stated. “HSM paramedic teams arrived at the scene shortly after the firefight had ended and transferred him to a hospital at the base, but he succumbed to his injuries hours later.”

One photograph shows the French commando placed on a tarpaulin, surrounded by gear, including weapons, magazines, body armor, a helmet with night vision goggles, and other equipment [pictured above]. Another photograph shows silenced submachineguns and and a silenced pistol, magazines, and what appears to be a map of the area where the commandos conducted their mission. On Twitter, Shabaab described the seized equipment as “Ghaneema,” or prizes captured during war.

Shabaab also claimed it “managed to retrieve valuable information from the soldier before his death,” but did not specify what information was obtained.

One of the photos zooms in on the commando’s face and upper body to show a cross around his neck, while the accompanying tweet likened the soldier to a crusader.

“A return of the crusades, but the cross could not save him from the sword,” Shabaab tweeted.

Shabaab also taunts the French on its Twitter page, asking the country’s president if the raid was “worth it.”

“François Hollande, was it worth it?,” another tweet stated.

In its press release accompanying the photos, Sahaab also stated that it “reached a unanimous verdict on the fate” of Denis Allex “after three and a half years in captivity.”

“The details of that verdict and some background information of the events leading up to the failed rescue operation will be published in the coming hours Insha’allah [Allah willing],”

Although the French government has claimed that Allex died during the raid, Shabaab claimed that he was not at the compound that was raided. According to a report at Shabelle, Shabaab was tipped off after the French force landed via helicopter at the nearby town of Daaydoog for the assault on the safe house in nearby Bula-Marer that was suspected of holding Allex.

In addition to the commando who was captured and subsequently died in custody, the French military said that one other soldier was killed during the raid. It is unclear if the soldier’s body was evacuated, but his weapon does appear to have been left behind during the raid, as Shabaab shows two submachineguns in one of the photographs.

Allex and Marc Aubriere, two French intelligence agents, were captured in July 2009 at a hotel in Mogadishu. Both men were posing as journalists and trainers for the Somali military. Aubriere escaped under mysterious circumstances and it is rumored the French government paid a ransom for his release.

France launched the rescue mission to free Allex as it was feared the hostage would be executed by Shabaab in retaliation for the French intervention in Mali. French forces have launched airstrikes against al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, Ansar Dine, and the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa after the three al Qaeda-linked groups advanced southward to take control of Bamako, the capital. The three militant Islamist groups have controlled northern Mali since the spring of 2012.