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The fate of French hostage Denis Allex is still unclear. Official sources say the government agent was killed during a rescue operation in Somalia on Saturday. But his kidnappers say he is still alive.

French officials have admitted the militant response to the operation came as a surprise.

France’s Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said they put up a much stronger fight than expected, especially in terms of of the heavy weapons used. “We underestimated that.” he said.

“Denis Allex has been held in inhuman conditions for three and a half years now, negotiations have got us nowhere and we were convinced he was in that exact spot.” he continued, “so I believe it was our duty to intervene.”

Denis Allex has been held by the militant group Al Shebab since being seized at a hotel in Mogadishu in July 2009.

Two French soldiers died in the raid in Somalia. Several militants were killed. While it came at the same time as French military intervention was announced in Mali, officials in Paris say there is no link.

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