2nd French commando dies of wounds, say Somali militants

Updated 14 January 2013
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2nd French commando dies of wounds, say Somali militants

MOGADISHU: A second French soldier has died from gunshot wounds after an attempt to rescue a French agent failed at the weekend, Somalia’s Al-Shabab rebel group said on Monday.
The Al-Qaeda-linked militants put up fierce resistance when French forces went into southern Somalia by helicopter under the cover of darkness on Saturday to try to free Denis Allex, held hostage since 2009.
The outcome of the mission was unclear. French President Francois Hollande said on Saturday the operation had failed despite the “sacrifice” of two soldiers and “no doubt the assassination of our hostage.”
However, earlier that day France’s defense ministry said one of the two Frenchmen was missing in action, stoking speculation that the soldier had been captured alive.
A ministry source said on Monday the government believed both commandos were dead, but it did not have the bodies.
“The second commando died from his bullet wounds. We shall display the bodies of the two Frenchmen,” Sheikh Abdiasis Abu Musab, spokesman for Al-Shabab’s military operations, told Reuters by telephone.
Musab said Allex was alive and his fate would be decided later.
Allex was one of two officers from France’s DGCE intelligence agency kidnapped by Al-Shabab three-and-a-half years ago in the capital Mogadishu. His colleague Marc Aubriere escaped a month later but Allex had been held ever since in what Paris called “inhumane conditions.”
A video of a gaunt-looking Allex pleading with Hollande to negotiate his release and save his life appeared on a website in October used by Islamist militant groups around the world. Reuters could not verify its authenticity.
“Allex is alive and healthy,” Musab said.
After Allex’s abduction, Al-Shabab issued a series of demands including an end to French support for the Somali government and a withdrawal of the 17,600-strong African peacekeeping force propping up the UN-backed administration.
Under pressure from the African troops and Somali government forces, the rebels have lost many of their urban strongholds, including Mogadishu, though they still wield influence in rural areas across southern and central Somalia.
Al Shabab wants to impose their strict version of sharia, or Islamic law, across the Horn of Africa state.
The raid to free Allex coincided with the launch of French air strikes on Al-Qaeda-affiliated rebels in Mali in West Africa. French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said, however, that the two military operations were unconnected.


Indonesia investigates reports top Daesh commander killed

Updated 22 min 58 sec ago
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Indonesia investigates reports top Daesh commander killed

  • Online messages from Daesh propagandists say Bahrumsyah, an Indonesian national, died after US air strikes hit Hajjin, north of the Syrian city of Abu Kamal
  • His death, if confirmed, would be a blow to pro-Daesh forces in Southeast Asia

JAKARTA/MANILA: Indonesia is investigating reports from Daesh supporters that the most senior Southeast Asian commander of the militant group was killed by US air strikes in eastern Syria last week, counter-terrorism officials said.
Online messages from Daesh propagandists viewed by Reuters say Bahrumsyah, an Indonesian national, died after US air strikes hit Hajjin, north of the Syrian city of Abu Kamal, last Tuesday.
A spokesman for Indonesia’s foreign ministry, Arrmanatha Nasir, said the embassy in Syria had made enquiries but had yet to confirm Bahrumsyah’s death.
Two senior Indonesian counter-terrorism officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said they were taking the online reports seriously.
“We are in the process of investigating,” said one senior official with Indonesia’s counter-terrorism agency.
If the reports were true, it would become a “motivation to carry out reprisal attacks” in Indonesia, the senior official said.
A Pentagon spokesman, Eric Pahon, said US aircraft were bombing the “general area” in eastern Syria on the day Bahrumsyah is believed to have died but was unable to confirm his death.
As well as leading Katibah Nusantara, an armed unit comprising more than 100 Southeast Asians, Bahrumsyah also organized funding for the Islamist rebels who captured part of the southern Philippines city of Marawi in a bloody siege last year, analysts and officials say.
A message purportedly from the Daesh figure Abu Nuh reviewed by Reuters said Bahrumsyah had been attending a meeting of leaders when he was killed. An Daesh headquarters and a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device factory were destroyed in the attack, the message said.
Another post eulogized the Indonesian, receiving sympathetic comments and crying emojis.
There were reports last year of Bahrumsyah’s death, but analyst Sidney Jones from the Jakarta-based Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict said the latest had a “much higher degree of credibility”.
“As far as we know, he was the highest ranking Indonesian to fight with ISIS. The fact that he commanded a fighting unit that was recognized by ISIS underscores his importance,” said Jones, using an alternative acronym for Daesh.
His death, if confirmed, would be a blow to pro-Daesh forces in Southeast Asia, where fears of hardened fighters returning from Syria as the militants’ self-declared caliphate crumbles has authorities on alert.
More than 600 Indonesians, including at least 166 women and children, traveled to Syria to join Daesh, according to data from Indonesia’s counter-terrorism agency reviewed by Reuters.
A further 482 Indonesians were deported by foreign governments trying to join Daesh.
“I don’t expect a flood of people to come back (to Indonesia), although there will be some people trying,” Jones said.