French Soldier Killed In Failed Rescue Attempt

France's Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian has said that a French secret agent held hostage in Somalia since 2009 is "believed" to have been killed during a botched rescue operation on the night of January 11-12.

Le Drian also said one French soldier was killed and one was taken captive by Islamic militants during the operation.

French commandos backed by helicopters launched an overnight raid on a base of the al-Shabab Islamist movement in Bulo Marer in southwestern Somalia.

They were apparently trying to rescue French intelligence agent Denis Allex, who had been kidnapped in Somalia by the al-Shabab in July 2009.

The defense ministry said that 17 militants were also killed in the operation.

Somali officials said at least two civilians died in the crossfire.

The Somali raid came hours after French troops intervened in the west African state of Mali.