Burkina Faso: French special forces save four hostages

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Last week, French special forces released four hostages in Burkina Faso in a raid that killed two elite soldiers.

Cedric de Pierrepont and Alain Bertoncello were killed in the night raid to free two French citizens, Laurent Lassimouillas and Patrick Picque. During the operation, two additional hostages not identified by the initial intelligence reports were discovered in the enemy camp; even these hostages, an American woman and a South Korean woman, were released.

French authorities said the kidnappers were terrorists who kidnapped Lassimouillas and Picque, two French tourists, on May 1st. The two music teachers were on a safari in the Pendjiari National Park of Benin, an area in which the French authorities warned citizens about the visit. Their guide, Fiacre Gbédji, was murdered in the kidnapping.

According to the BBC, the kidnappers were arriving in Mali. It is believed that they planned to hand over hostages to the militant group Katiba Macina.

"Once the hostages were in hands [Katiba Macina] it would have been impossible to save them," said Francois Lecointre, head of the French army, at a press conference.

Four of the kidnappers were killed during the rescue and two reported having escaped. Although no group has assumed responsibility for the kidnapping, the authorities have stated that groups linked to al-Qaeda and the Islamic State both operate in the region.

Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly said the two women were held captive for 28 days and that, despite special forces troops have the support of US intelligence for the operation, neither the US nor South Korea knew about their citizens.

"Contacts [with those countries] show that countries were not necessarily aware of their presence," Parly said.

Both women will be repatriated to their countries of origin.

A spokeswoman for the US State Department told Reuters that the United States was grateful for the rescue and also offered official condolences to the families of the fallen soldiers.

In a press conference after meeting Macron in France on Saturday, Lassimouillas also extended his condolences to the families of the fallen troops, as well as to the family of his safari guide. He also said he regretted not having listened to the government's travel warning and that he would "avoid that magnificent region of the world which is unfortunately inclined to instability".

French President Emmanuel Macron met with hostages when they arrived in France on Saturday and honored the soldiers who died on Friday.

"They gave their lives to free others" Macron said on Twitter Friday of Pierrepont and Bertoncello. Macron announced a formal memorial service for the two men to be held Tuesday in Paris.

Bertoncello's parents, Jean-Luc and Daniéle Bertoncello, said he wanted to join the marina since high school and that they were proud of him.

"What he loved was the esprit de corps … he was doing what he wanted and he always told us not to worry," they said at an RTL radio interview. "They did what they had to do. For him it ended badly, for others, it was a successful mission."

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