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French hostage in Somalia pleads for his life on video

Men suspected to be from al Shabaab are guarded at a former police station by soldiers of the Somali National Army (SNA) as engineers serving with the Kenyan Contingent of the African Union Mission in Somalia. (REUTERS/African Union-United Nations Information Support Team/Stuart Price/HO)

ABU DHABI/PARIS: An Islamist group in Somalia released a video on Friday in which a French secret agent held in the Horn of Africa country since 2009 is shown pleading with French President Francois Hollande to negotiate his release and save his life.

The video appeared on a website used by Islamist militant groups around the world. Reuters could not immediately verify its authenticity.

Two French intelligence officers from the DGSE agency were kidnapped by the al Shabaab rebel group in Somalia in 2009 but one, Marc Aubriere, escaped a month later.

In the four-minute video, a pale-looking Denis Allex said he feared for his life but that it was still possible to negotiate his release if Hollande was "sincere and honest."

"Mr. President, I am still alive but for how long? That depends on you for if you do not reach an agreement for my release then I am afraid that this will be the last message you receive from me," he says in French on the video which also has English subtitles.

Allex says in the video that his voice was recorded in July.

In Malta for a summit of Mediterranean powers, Hollande said the government was seeking to start talks with any party able to facilitate Allex's release.

"We are using all means to open communication with all of those who can facilitate the release of our hostages," he told reporters, adding that he had scheduled a meeting with Allex's parents before the video was released.

The French government has previously said the two men were in the Somali capital to train local forces before being kidnapped.

After his abduction in 2009 al Shabaab issued a series of demands, which included an end to French support for the Somali government and the withdrawal of African Union peacekeepers.

Given the sensitivity of Allex's work, Paris has been cautious when commenting on the situation and there are few public campaigns for his release.

In the latest message, Allex says he and other French hostages abducted in various parts of the world were "victims of France's oppressive policies towards Muslims in France and those outside of France."

In a rare operation, U.S. special forces rescued two aid workers held hostage in Somalia in January after killing their nine kidnappers.

Al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab fled its last urban bastion of Kismayu last week during an offensive by African Union and Somali government troops. The loss of the port city was a major blow to the rebels, depriving them of revenue from taxing local businesses and shipping.

The rebels have threatened to retaliate. Analysts expect the militants to increasingly resort to suicide bombings and hit-and-run attacks similar to those that have rocked the capital Mogadishu over the last year.

The North African arm of al Qaeda on Sept. 20 threatened to kill six French hostages it holds if Paris tried to mount a military intervention in northern Mali.

 

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