MOGADISHU, Jan 12 (Reuters) - At least two civilians were killed when helicopters believed to belong to the French military attacked a base belonging to al Shabaab insurgents in a southern Somalia village to rescue a French hostage, a Somali government official and rebels said.
French officials were not immediately available to confirm the raid.
Authorities in Bula Mareer, a town about 120 km south of Mogadishu, said helicopters attacked on early on Saturday and were believed to have been on a mission to rescue a French hostage who was seized in the Somali capital in 2009.
"Helicopters attacked al Shabaab at 2.00 am this morning. Two civilians died in the crossfire," Ahmed Omar Mohamed, deputy chairman for lower Shabelle region, told Reuters.
An al Shabaab official who asked not to be named said they exchanged fire with French commandoes.
"Three helicopters dropped French commandoes. We exchanged fire," the official told Reuters. (Reporting by Adbi Sheikh and Feisal Omar; Editing by George Obulutsa and Alison Williams)