French commandoes on Saturday attacked a base of Islamist militants in Somalia in a hostage rescue attempt, a Somali intelligence official said. Residents of the town said they heard explosions and gunfire.
Meanwhile, the French Defence Ministry said the captors of a French military agent killed him during the raid in Somalia. The ministry said 17 militants and two French commandos also died in the fighting.
Gen. Martin Klotz, a spokesman for the ministry, declined to provide details of the overnight operation aimed at rescuing fellow DGSE spy service agent Denis Allex the code-name for the agent who had been held hostage in Somalia since 2009.
Allex was kidnapped from a hotel in Mogadishu on July 14, 2009 with a colleague who later escaped. They were in Somalia to train government forces, which are fighting militants.
The attack occurred in the town of Bulomarer, and comes on the heels of French military intervention in Mali, another African country.