Foreign troops launch Somali raid

Foreign soldiers have staged an attack on militants in Somalia, killing at least two people in a helicopter raid.

The troops, who according to some reports had uniforms with French insignia, attacked a vehicle carrying Islamists from the al-Shabab group.

Witnesses said the troops took away two men, and there were two bodies left in the road after the attack in the southern coastal town of Barawe.

A French military spokesman has denied its forces were involved.

“There was no French operation,” said admiral Christophe Prazuck, spokesman for the armed forces’ general staff, according to the AFP news agency.

He said the only French forces in the region were tackling pirates off the coast and did not intervene on land.

Witness Dahir Ahmed said that the helicopters had taken off from a nearby warship flying a French flag.

A spokesman for al-Shabab, which controls Barawe, has told the BBC that its forces were attacked but did not give any other details.

A village elder said four foreign helicopters were involved in the raid.

“A car was destroyed, we are also hearing that some of the vehicle’s passengers were taken on the helicopters,” he told AFP.

French commandos have launched raids in the past to rescue their citizens from pirates or militants. There is a French military base in neighbouring Djibouti.

The assault comes several weeks after a Frenchman held by militants in Mogadishu managed to get free.

The US has also carried out air strikes against Somali Islamist groups it accused of links to al-Qaeda in recent years.

Somalia has not had a functioning central government since 1991.

Rival Islamist factions are battling forces loyal to the weak UN-backed government, which only controls small parts of the capital Mogadishu.

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