Kidnappers send France 'proof of life' from spy hostage
France's foreign intelligence service said Tuesday it has received proof that one of its secret agents, Denis Allex, is alive. Allex was taken hostage in Mogadishu by an Islamist group on July 14, 2009.
AFP - France has received "proof of life" of one of its secret agents held hostage by Islamists in Somalia since July 2009, the French foreign intelligence service DGSE said on Tuesday.
A DGSE source said the service had received from the kidnappers "a reply to a personal question" to which Denis Allex, a French secret agent kidnapped by an Islamist group, was able to respond, proving he was alive.
"No detail was given by his captors on the state of his health nor on his location or the conditions in which he is being held," the source added.
The source declined to give further details "for obvious reasons of discretion" given the "particularly difficult" negotiations under way with the kidnappers.
Allex was seized in Mogadishu on July 14, 2009, as was another French agent who was held by a different group, Hezb al-Islam, and freed the following month.
In June France's then foreign minister, Bernard Kouchner, said Allex may have been held in the autonomous Puntland region of northern Somalia.
France said the two agents were in Somalia to help train local security forces but the Al-Qaeda-inspired Shebab militant group that seized Allex accused them of gathering intelligence for the French government.
It alleged they were working in support of foreign "forces of the crusade" -- an apparent reference to African Union peacekeeping forces currently comprising some 5,000 troops from Uganda and Burundi.
The Shebab have demanded the immediate end to any political and military support from France for Somalia's fragile central government and the withdrawal of all foreign advisors and private security firms in Somalia.
Somalia has been riven by internal strife for years, with the strongest groups waging a bloody offensive against forces loyal to the weak transitional government.
It is considered one of the most dangerous countries in the world, with several foreign hostages believe to be held on its soil and hundreds of foreign seamen held on vessels seized by pirates off its coast.