French troops free hostages in Burkina Faso

French troops free hostages in Burkina Faso

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

French special forces rescued four hostages during a daring night-time raid on a terrorist camp in Burkina Faso.

The raid on the kidnappers was led by the elite Hubert commando unit of the French naval special forces, which was deployed to the Sahel at the end of March.

Despite careful planning and American and Burkina support, "no one had any knowledge" of the presence of an American and a South Korean, she said at a news conference.

The two French tourists were kidnapped on May 1 in Benin's Pendjari National Park, which lies on Benin's northern frontier with Burkina Faso.

Four "terrorists" also were killed during the pre-dawn operation.

"It seems these two other hostages [the American and South Korean] had been held hostage for 28 days", said Francois Lecointre, the chief of staff of the French armed forces.

Picque and Lassimouillas were kidnapped during a visit to Pendjari National Park, an important wildlife reserve that sprawls along the border next to Arli National Park, a similar park in Burkina Faso.

The badly disfigured body of their wildlife guide was found shortly afterwards, as well as their abandoned four-wheel Toyota truck.

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Two French soldiers were killed in a military operation conducted overnight, according to a statement released by French President Emmanuel Macron.

French special forces carried out the raid under cover of dark over the night of Thursday-Friday, supported by USA intelligence and troops from France's Barkhane operation deployed in the Sahel region to counter Islamist militants.

There are no confirmed reports of casualties among the kidnappers.

"All our thoughts go to the families of the soldiers and to the soldiers who lost their lives to free us from this hell", said Lassimouillas in remarks to reporters.

He and Mr Picque are to return to Paris later Saturday, where President Macron and Mr Le Drian are to meet them at the Villacoublay military airport southwest of the capital.

A military ceremony for the commandos is planned for next week.

Macron thanked authorities in Burkina Faso and Benin for their co-operation and promised them support in fighting terrorism.

A spokesperson for the US State Department said the United States was grateful for the successful recovery of the hostages, including a US citizen, and offered condolences to the families of the two solders killed.