Al Qaeda-linked terrorists in Africa today posted gruesome pictures of a man they said was a French commando killed in a failed operation to rescue a French intelligence agent overnight Friday.
The pictures, released via Twitter by the Somalia-based terror group al-Shabaab, show a white male in a dark blue shirt and camouflage pants surrounded by military gear and weapons. The shirt is covered in blood and the man appears to be dead. As a caption for one photo that shows the man's crucifix necklace, al-Shabaab tweeted, "A return of the crusades, but the cross could not save him from the sword."
In another tweet, al-Shabaab showed a picture of the man and addressed the French president directly: "Francois Hollande, was it worth it?"
The raid was meant to free "Denis Allex," the pseudonym of an agent of the French foreign intelligence service DGSE who was kidnapped in Somalia in July 2009.
Late Saturday, Hollande acknowledged that two French soldiers had been killed in the operation and that it was likely that Allex was executed by his captors. Hollande offered his condolences to the families of the dead but said the operation "confirms France's determination not to give in to the blackmail of terrorists."
Today al-Shabaab put out a press release claiming it had killed "several" French commandoes, but that Allex was still alive. The group said it had "reached a verdict" on what to do with him and would announce it in coming hours.
French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said Saturday that the raiding party slipped secretly into the area but was met with "very strong resistance" on the ground and "very violent combat ensued." In addition to the French casualties, Le Drian said 17 terrorists were killed.
President Obama revealed Sunday that U.S. military forces had been involved in the mission, providing "limited technical support." Obama was required to notify Congress of the action, since it amounted to a deployment of U.S. military personnel, and released the notification letter to the public. U.S. aircraft "briefly entered Somali airspace to support the rescue operation, if needed," but did not use their weapons, the letter said.
Al-Shabaab formally allied itself with al Qaeda in February 2012, but that didn't stop African forces from handing the terror group a series of military defeats in Somalia, eventually pushing them out of all major urban areas in the East African nation.
State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland called al-Shabaab's boasting over the failed hostage rescue a "desperate" move, saying the group remains significantly weakened as the newly elected Somali government gaining more territory throughout the country.
"Al-Shabaab is on its heels and it's desperate to try to continue to maintain its influence, but it's not going to be successful," Nuland said.