French military frees hostages in Burkina Faso, two commandos killed
French commandos rescued four foreign hostages including two French citizens from a militant group in Burkina Faso, France’s military said on Friday, adding that two of the elite soldiers were killed in the night-time operation.
French special forces carried out the raid under cover of dark over the night of Thursday-Friday, supported by U.S. intelligence and troops from France’s Barkhane operation deployed in the Sahel region to counter Islamist militants.
All four hostages were safe, President Emmanuel Macron’s office said, adding that a U.S. woman and a South Korean woman were also freed in the covert operation.
“The precise and determined actions of French soldiers allowed us to take out the kidnappers while protecting the lives of the hostages,” France’s army chief Francois Lecointre told a news conference, describing the militant group as “terrorists”.
Four kidnappers were killed and two escaped.
The French forces had not been aware of the presence of the U.S. and South Korean hostages ahead of the operation and they had been held for 28 days, Lecointre said.
A spokeswoman for the U.S. State Department said the United States was grateful for the successful recovery of the hostages, including a U.S. citizen, and offered condolences to the families of the two soldiers killed.
“The successful operation demonstrates the importance of our historic alliance with France. We reaffirm our solidarity with the people of Burkina Faso and Benin in the face of these threats,” she said.
South Korea had confirmed the identity of the South Korean hostage, a woman in her 40s, its foreign ministry said.
South Korea offered condolences to the families of the soldiers killed and was sincerely grateful to France for the rescue, the ministry said.