(WASHINGTON) — President Obama divulged on Sunday that the U.S. military played a role in a botched attempt by French commandos to free a hostage in Somalia last Friday.
In a letter to Congress released on Sunday evening, the president said service members “provided limited technical support” in the raid — likely referring to intelligence or surveillance assistance — although he denied the forces took direct action in the assault on the compound.
The NATO member state was attempting to free a French intelligence agent that had been captured by Islamic militant group al-Shabab three years ago.
The hostage and at least once French soldier died in the ensuing firefight, which also killed a reported 17 militants, according to the French government.
Al-Shabab claims the French agent is still in their custody along with a soldier from the raid, but has offered no proof.
In his letter to Congress alerting them to his deployment of U.S. forces, Obama also wrote that U.S. aircraft “briefly entered Somali airspace to support the rescue operation, if needed,” but did not deploy weapons. The letter does not state whether the aircraft were manned planes or drone vehicles.
The news came as France expands military operations in another African state, sending warplanes into northern Mali to bomb al Qaeda-linked rebels.
A Twitter posting from the office of Mali’s president states the United States has agreed to offer logistical support in that country, although American officials have not announced specifics. The Pentagon has reportedly said it is still weighing options in the West African state, which already sees American surveillance drones in its airspace.
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