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The French government says it believes hostage Denis Allex has been killed in Somalia by Islamic militants.

French forces carried out an air strike in Bula Mareer early Saturday at a base held by militant group al Shabaab in an attempt to free Allex.

A bloody battle ensued, as French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian explains:

“Violent combat took place. I speak with great caution here, but I have reason to believe that unfortunately Denis Allex was killed by his captors. During the attempted rescue mission, a French soldier was killed due to his injuries and another is missing.”

The defence ministry also said 17 militants were killed during the operation.

The al Shabaab group, which demands the end of French support for the Somali government, has claimed the hostage is still alive.

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