Eight civilians killed in French Somalia raid: Witnesses

Eight civilians killed in French Somalia raid: Witnesses

At least eight civilians were killed during France's failed attempt to free a hostage in Somalia, witnesses said Sunday, adding to prior reported death tolls.

They also said Saturday's operation failed because the Islamist fighters were warned of the French commandos' arrival, a report confirmed by a local Islamist commander.

"Four civilians, including three from one family, are among the dead. They were all killed outside Bulomarer, where the French commandos landed before entering the city," resident Adan Derow said by telephone.

The victims were a couple, their son and another man, other residents said.

"We don't know why those civilians were killed" outside Bulomarer, where the raid took place, added another resident, Ali Moalim Hassan.

"Four other civilians were also caught in the crossfire and died in the town of Bulomarer" during a pitched battle between French commandos and Islamist fighters.

The four included a woman, her child and a local market guard, according to residents.

On Saturday, French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said that one French soldier died and another went missing during the raid, adding that 17 guerrillas were killed.

He said "all indications" point to the conclusion that the hostage, a French intelligence agent with the alias of Denis Allex, had been killed by his captors belonging to the Shebab, a Somali Islamist group affiliated with al-Qaida.

But the Shebab denied that Allex was dead and said they were holding the missing French commando.