Shabaab releases photos of French commando captured in failed rescue mission


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.”

“Fran├žois 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.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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  • Tunde says:

    RIP to this fallen warrior. May his death be avenged with 44g of justice.
    I’m just waiting for the walts to show up here with derogatory statements like what kicked off the first thread on this story.
    For every Abbottabad there is the possibility of a Linda Norgrove type mission failure. I’d like to see these keyboard nancy’s say some of the things posted previously to a French tier 1 operator.
    Qui Ose gagne.

  • Dani says:

    I am sure the French will avenge their deaths. He died for our freedoms.
    I recall a Serb war criminal getting bombed in his house after authorizing the sniping of French soldiers during the Bosnian conflict. Later I read that a single French war plane had been dispatched to take out his entire house. Although this was never official the sudden unexplained explosion of the Serbs home made sense….Like the Israeli’s…you can run but you can not hide.

  • Render says:

    (2) H&K MP-7
    (1) Glock (17, 19, 26, or 34)
    Larger magazines top center likely came from a FAMAS G-2.
    …and that looks like it hurt (the French Special Forces).

  • Kit says:

    I am offended by your display and handling of my dead comrade’s body. I am outraged and this is an attack on Christianity.

  • Tm says:

    Ok France, Time to send in the French Foreign Legion and wipe these vermin out. It is a nest of vipers , send in 5000 and take them all out. 5000 boots on the ground.

  • mike merlo says:

    most unfortunate

  • Evan says:

    If they sent in 5000 legionnaires, that would be 10,000 boots on the ground. Just saying.
    It would be an interesting story to hear how the hell one, possibly two of these French commandos got left behind, along with some very nice/expensive/dangerous gear, I.e, NVG’s, sub machineguns with silencers…..tre mal indeed.
    I truly do hope that the French not only avenge the death of their combat dead, and especially the brother in arms that was carried off and undoubtedly tortured, but that they also kick some serious tail over in north Mali. There’s an army of jihadists/islamists/extremists both there and in Somalia, and if we had any sense at all (the US), we’d be right there with them, and not just drone and intel support either.

  • Tunde says:

    Larger mag could also be h&k g36k. French SOF do use those too.
    Either way……how will the French hope to retrieve this body ?
    As a curio, how were the bodies of our fallen recovered in Somalia ? Anyone know ?

  • SlayerMill says:

    I couldn’t agree with you more. The people who want to criticize the French Tier 1 Operators are the same people whose combat experience extends no further than the missions they’ve played on Call of Duty. It’s pathetic that people feel the need to make jokes about our fallen allies.

  • Cal says:

    This is just going to piss France off more. Al-Shabaab just signed off on their own deaths.

  • Neonmeat says:

    If Allex died during the raid, or if they now murder him I imagine they can expect some serious retribution.
    They sent commandos to rescue their countryman, when he is no longer in need of rescue then they can send some bombs instead, they will have no more hostages to hide behind.

  • Serious Questions says:

    Quite concerned at the claims of Shabaab being closer to reality than usual.
    They have a body, they have equipment and propaganda material to use for some time to come.
    They still have the hostage and now the element of surprise is gone.
    But worst of all, the commando was captured…alive.
    Was he abandoned or unable to be retrieved?
    How did Shabaab get these images out? Is there no 24/7 surveillance on these scumbag terrorists?

  • HJM says:

    RIP brother, you died a hero trying to free a comrade. Your death will not go unpunished.

  • ken says:

    was this a Legion operation?

  • Kevin Cooney says:

    For years I’ve greatly appreciated your detailed coverage of the War which is all the more important since most other media outlets pretend it doesn’t exist.
    That said I would ask for the future that you do not link to the enemy’s trophy photos of our dead. The raid and the casualties are of course news to be reported but the uncropped photo of the soldier’s body laid out in full on a tarp adds little except as a boost for the enemy. The story was clear enough that the raid went badly and that the French lost 2 of their men.
    We should show the fighting men of our French allies the same respect we would show to our own.

  • Real Life Villain says:

    RE: Correcting and capitalizing on your post
    1) The left H&K MP7 is equipped with an Aimpoint Micro T-1 or H-1
    2) The right H&K MP7 is equipped with an Aimpoint CompM3
    3) The Glock pistol is an undetermined model. Note the loaded magazine with grip extension/+1-2 round baseplate, the other (2) Glock magazines which differ in size from the upper remaining Glock magazine, and suppressor which indicates a threaded barrel (could be factory or aftermarket)
    4) The “large magazines top center” are Magpul 5.56mm PMags with windowed bodies made for the M4/M16 platform
    5) The magazine between the above-mentioned magazines is a 20-round SG55x series magazine
    On topic, the French DGSE loss of life is very unfortunate. RIP.

  • Dave Sanborn says:

    OK France after turning your back on the US and all the scathing remarks don’t ask for any type of assistance from the US. However, I’m sure if you wait long enough the US will stick its nose where it doesn’t belong.

  • blert says:

    The only way I can imagine French commandos leaving a buddy on the field of battle would be if opfor elements had attained a massive fire-power dominance.
    Which would imply that the opfor had been forewarned by a leak.
    It’s also most curious that — in a world of GPS and gee-whiz electronics — that the commandos were landed so far away from their target.
    Taken together, it implies that France was out-foxed from the start.
    This whole debacle reminds me of Carter’s fiasco in the Iranian desert, decades ago.

  • Tom says:

    Now focusing on Mali
    I Hope peace will come to them. The problem is that Mali is MORE then twice the size of Afghanistan, you would need lots of french troops if im not misstaken.

  • Tm says:

    Looks like that is exactly what they are going to do. Send in the French foreign legion.

  • render64 says:

    Real Life Villain:
    Nicely done.
    1 & 2: I’m not as good as I’d like to be at IDing aftermarket sights. So I tend to ignore them.
    3: Agreed on all. French Special Forces use all four of the models that I listed.
    4: Recognized the Magpul STANAG mags. Know that FAMAS G2 accepts STANAG mags, extrapolated from there. But you may very well be correct.
    5: Realized that the center mag was different…after I’d posted (duh). French mil does use the SIG SG551 series, so I agree with you here as well.
    Noting that French “armor” is in play now…
    The French brought light armored wheeled APC’s and light armored cars.
    The enemy uses RPG’s, a lot.
    This does not bode well…

  • David says:

    I’m glad to see our old friend, France, back in the game.

  • snmp says:

    2x HK MP7 with silencer, Aimpoint sights (CompX & Micro), Surfire flashlight
    1x Glock 17 Mariner with XM6 (Threaded barrel like many Glock sold in France for sport purpose)
    1x Sig 55X
    2x Mag for HK416 or Colt Carbine
    Silencer could be come from RDS industrie (France), stopson (France) or B&T (Siwss)

  • Infidel4LIFE says:

    I feel for those guys, they must have had a pretty hard fight, and Alex wasn’t there. Did the US assist in any way, intel, etc? They had the wrong location? A trap? This guy has been missing for years, they gave it a shot, but no go. There are lessons to be learned, and the French should be commended for acting. Its true, the EU has a problem brewing real close, they must take the lead here.


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