(WASHINGTON) — A terrorist group claims to have executed a French spy — a man the French government said was likely already dead following a failed rescue attempt over the weekend.
The al Qaeda-allied, Somalia-based terrorist organization al-Shabaab released a blunt statement on Twitter early Thursday, saying, “16:30 GMT [11:30 ET], Wednesday, 16 January, 2013. Dennis Allex is executed.”
Allex, believed to be the codename of a French intelligence officer, was the target of a rescue attempt launched by French special forces over the weekend. The raid failed and two French commandos were killed, according to the French government. Al-Shabaab released several pictures of one of the fallen soldiers via Twitter Monday.
In the days after the raid, top French officials, including President Francois Hollande, said they believed Allex had been executed by his captors during the failed operation, but al-Shabaab released a statement Monday claiming he was alive.
Edouard Guillaud, chief of staff of the French armed forces, stuck by his superior’s grim estimation of Allex’s fate Wednesday and told a French radio network that French authorities believed al-Shabaab’s claim of life was merely a “media stunt.”
The Twitter account run by a self-appointed spokesperson for the terror group has not released any photographic evidence showing Allex alive after the raid or his alleged recent death.
Allex was kidnapped by al-Shabaab in July 2009, the French government said. Wednesday, Hollande stood firmly by his decision to launch the raid.
“It is a message we send: France cannot accept that its citizen be held hostage,” he said. “I also want to express France’s position: It is by being firm, including by intervening as we are in Mali, that we defeat kidnappers.”
Al-Shabaab claimed in its statement earlier this week that it had tried to negotiate Allex’s release in good faith in exchange for the release of Muslim prisoners over three and a half years but was met with what it described as “willfully uncooperative” French authorities. The group claimed the French government launched the botched rescue operation a week after ensuring the terrorist group that “a deal would be finalized ‘very shortly.'” Al-Shabaab also claimed it had extracted “a wealth of information” from Allex on the “inner workings of the French intelligence apparatus.”
The French Defense ministry had no comment on both claims Wednesday, telling ABC News it does not comment on press releases from such groups.
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