WASHINGTON (CN) - President Barack Obama announced the United States played a limited "technical" role in a failed military operation to free a French citizen, in Somalia, according to a letter issued by the White House.
French forces attempted to liberate one of its spies, known only by his cover name, Denis Allex, who was held hostage for over three years, according to a Washington Post report. The report added Allex was presumed to have been killed and a French soldier was declared missing in a gun battle with Islamist soldiers belonging to the al-Shabab militant network.
A New York Times report said Allex was killed by his captors and that two French soldiers had been killed.
In another report, CBS News said the militants have released a picture of what they claim is a French commando killed in the botched raid.
"United States forces provided limited technical support to the French forces in that operation, but took no direct part in the assault on the compound where it was believed the French citizen was being held hostage," Obama said in the letter. "United States combat aircraft briefly entered Somali airspace to support the rescue operation, if needed. These aircraft did not employ weapons during the operation. The U.S. forces that supported this operation left Somalia by approximately 8 p.m. Eastern Standard Time on Jan. 11, 2013."
The White House added the announcement came as an act of compliance with the War Powers Resolution, which obligates the President to notify Congress within 48 hours of committing U.S. military forces to military operations. Obama said he became obligated to make the announcement when U.S. jet fighters entered Somali airspace. The fighters are believed to be F-15's stationed out of Camp Lemonnier on Somalia's northwest border, according to the Washington Post.
Obama did not say why he chose to reveal the operation when he has remained quiet about other U.S. military missions in Somalia. The U.S. regularly conducts surveillance flights over Somalia using drones and has sent in special operations forces in the past. Special forces conducted a hostage rescue operation there in January 2012.
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