French forces free American, South Korean in Burkina Faso

French forces free American, South Korean in Burkina Faso

An American woman is among four hostages freed by French soldiers during a raid in the African nation of Burkina Faso.

The two French citizens, tourists Patrick Picque et Laurent Lassimouillas, as well as an unidentified South Korean national, arrived on the tarmac at Villacoublay military airport.

French special forces freed the hostages in an overnight raid, but two commandos were killed in the operation, authorities in Paris said on Friday.

"He bows with emotion and solemnity before the sacrifice of our two soldiers who gave their lives to save those of our citizens", the statement added.

All four hostages were safe, President Emmanuel Macron's office said, adding that a USA woman and a South Korean woman were also freed in the covert operation.

The minister said investigations were underway to identify the kidnappers, noting that networks affiliated with al Qaeda and ISIS are known to operate in the area.

Mr Macron has announced a national tribute will be held next week in Paris in honour of the soldiers.

French soldiers Cedric de Pierrepont and Alain Bertoncello were killed in the operation. French officials said they had been in captivity for four weeks but did not believe the USA or South Korean governments were aware they were being held.

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Islamic extremists have become increasingly active in Burkina Faso, raising worries the militants could be infiltrating northern Benin and neighbouring Togo as well.

Commanders chose to act because the kidnappers were close to the Malian border and were believed to be planning to hand the hostages over to the Mali-based militant group Katiba Macina.

"The President of Burkina Faso expressed his sympathy for the two deaths recorded on the French side, in this friendly operation".

Laurent Lassimouillas is one of the four ex-hostages freed.

Their guide's body was found on Sunday, riddled with bullets, and the auto that he and the tourists used was found burned out across the border in Burkina Faso.

France's army chief Francois Lecointre told reporters that four kidnappers were killed in the operation and two escaped.

Parly also thanked local authorities and the "precious support of our American allies in conducting this operation". A military ceremony is planned for them next week.

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