(PARIS) — The French Defense Ministry has confirmed the deaths of two French military service members in two military operations launched in Africa over the past 24 hours. One mission was a secret hostage rescue in Somalia, and the other was a very public mission to quash Islamist rebels in northern Mali.
Early Saturday, French commandos launched an unsuccessful raid in Somalia to rescue a French intelligence agent held by al Shabab since 2009. The French Defense Ministry say a hostage was killed in the raid, as was one of the commandos. Al Shabab says they’ve taken a commando hostage and that the original hostage remains alive. Locals say the commandos flew in on five helicopters to the town of Bulomarer deep in southwestern Somalia. The Ministry says 17 Shabab fighters were killed in the firefight that followed.
Meanwhile in Mali, a French military helicopter pilot was killed during an aerial attack on a rebel command center in northern Mali. Hundreds of French troops were sent to Mali on Friday at the invitation of Mali’s president as rebel forces launched a new offensive out of their haven in northern Mali. “The threat is a terrorist state at the doorstep of France and Europe,” French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said in a briefing on Saturday.
The U.S. will decide soon on a French request to provide unarmed surveillance drones to help their forces in Mali. They’ve also requested mid-air refueling tankers to assist a French fighter aircraft. Friday morning ECOWAS member nations authorized the immediate deployment of military forces to Mali. There has been talk in the past that if this was to happen that the U.S. might provide cargo planes to move troops and equipment from these neighbor countries into Mali.
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
Paul Cruickshank and Michael Pearson, CNN