File photo shows Denis Allex, the French secret agent held by Somali fighters since 2009.
Somalia’s al-Shabab fighters say they have executed a French secret agent after an operation by French commandoes failed to free the man held by the group for three years.
"16:30 GMT, Wednesday, 16 January, 2013. Denis Allex is executed," the group said on its Twitter feed Thursday.
A senior member of the al-Shabab group has confirmed the report.
"Audio and video are available and will be released any time we decide," the unidentified official said, adding the French man was killed in Bulomarer town, located in south of the capital Mogadishu.
France launched a rescue operation on the town on January 11, 2013, to free Alex held hostage in Somalia since July 2009. However, the rescue attempt turned out to be a failure, with two French soldiers killed.
The militant group said in a statement on Wednesday that they had "reached a unanimous decision to execute" the hostage in a bid to retaliate "the dozens of Muslim civilians senselessly killed by the French forces during the operation."
The statement also stressed France's “increasing persecution of Muslims around the world, its oppressive anti-Islam policies at home, French military operations in ... Afghanistan and, most recently, in Mali."
The French army, however, accused the militant group of "manipulating the media," saying Alex was likely already dead.
"We have no element since the raid indicating Denis Allex is alive. We think he is most likely dead," Chief of Defense Staff Admiral Edouard Guillaud said on Wednesday.