French soldiers killed while freeing 4 kidnapped tourists in Burkina Faso

Larry Hoffman
May 12, 2019

Two French special forces soldiers died during the raid, which rescued four hostages and killed four kidnappers.

Officials said two French special forces officers and four "terrorists" were killed in Friday's pre-dawn military operation in northern Burkina Faso.

The identities of the American and South Korean women were not known.

The two Frenchmen, Laurent Lassimouillas and Patrick Picque, and the South Korean woman, who has not yet been identified, met Burkinabe President Roch Kabore at the presidential palace in the capital Ouagadougou.

US forces were not involved in the raid, French defense officials said at a news conference in Paris, but did provide some intelligence support, which helped French forces locate the hostages and their kidnappers.

Two of the hostages are French, one is American and one is South Korean.

"Our first thoughts go to the families of the soldiers who freed us from this hell", he continued.

Picque and Lassimouillas were kidnapped on May 1 while in the neighboring West African country of Benin, according to the Elysee.

"France's message to terrorists is clear: those who want to attack France, the French, should know that we will hunt them, we will find them, and we will kill them", Defence Minister Florence Parly said after joining Macron at the Villacoublay military airport outside Paris.

A South Korean embassy official was present to greet the unnamed third hostage. Their guide was later found dead.

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

The park sits on the border with Burkina Faso, where Islamist militants have been increasingly active in recent months. "It was an extremely complex operation, regulated like extremely fine clockwork", General François Lecointre, chief of staff of the armed forces, said.

He promised support to Burkina Faso and Benin in fighting terrorism in the Sahel region.

Intelligence agencies tracked their captors across the semi-desert terrain of eastern Burkina Faso, where it appeared they would soon cross the border into Mali.

France has 4500 troops in a military force in the Sahel aimed at helping local governments fight Islamic extremists.

"We wanted to present our condolences right away to those families because we feel ambivalent about everything that happened to us", he said.

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