FRANCE - France’s defence minister on Sunday said his troops underestimated the strength and firepower of Islamist rebels when they launched a failed bid to free an intelligence officer held hostage in Somalia.
Somali villagers said the French commandos killed villagers near their target and gave survivors time to warn Al-Shabab militants of their arrival.
Defence Minister Jean-Yves le Drian said one French soldier died and another went missing during the raid in which the hostage was probably killed by his captors.
He added that 17 guerrillas were killed.
The commandos were aiming for BulMarer in southern Somalia on Friday night.
Their five helicopters first landed at Daaydoog, 3km away.
They killed some villagers and tied up others before heading to BulMarer.
Surviving villagers warned Al-Shabab that 50 foreigners were approaching.
Le Drian said Denis Allex, the French secret agent they were aiming to free, was probably killed.
A commando died in heavy weapon fire and one was captured.
The rebel group has said it will give its final verdict regarding the fate of Denis Allex within a few days.
Allex is one of nine French hostages being held by Islamist radicals in Africa. Most of them are being held in northern Mali.
(Edited by Clare Matthes)