French forces rescue American during raid to free tourists in Burkina Faso


French special forces have freed two French hostages, an American and a South Korean in northern Burkina Faso in an overnight military raid that cost the lives of two soldiers, the French presidency said Friday.

The two dead soldiers were named as Cedric de Pierrepont and Alain Bertoncello, decorated naval special forces members born in 1986 and 1991 respectively.

Two French hostages, captured in Benin on May 1, as well as a USA citizen and South Korean national were successfully freed in the operation.

The rescued hostages included two French citizens, Patrick Picque and Laurent Lassimouillas, who had disappeared on May 1 while on safari in the tiny neighbouring West African nation of Benin.

Mr Picque and Mr Lassimouillas, along with the South Korean hostage who has not yet been identified, arrived in Ouagadougou on Saturday, where they were to meet with Burkina's President Roch Marc Christian Kabore, according to an AFP reporter at the presidential palace.

Two French soldiers died in shots fired at close range by the hostage-takers.

Parly also thanked local authorities and the "precious support of our American allies in conducting this operation".

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The U.S. forces had not been involved in the raid, French defense officials said at a news conference in Paris, but had provided some intelligence support, which helped French forces locate the hostages and their kidnappers.

The French commandos were unaware of the presence of the two other hostages, officials said.

The French government had warned its citizens against travelling to parts of Benin near the Burkina Faso border because of the risk of kidnapping.

France, the former colonial power in the region, intervened in Mali in 2013 against Islamist militants then occupying Mali's north and has since kept about 4,500 troops in the Sahel.

"I offer my deepest condolences to the families of the French soldiers killed during the operation", he tweeted.

Burkina Faso lies in the heart of the Sahel, a vast semi-arid region bordering the Sahara.

The last death was announced on April 2 when a military doctor was killed in Mali when his armoured vehicle hit an improvised explosive device during an operation near the border with Burkina Faso.