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Hostages freed in Burkina Faso greeted by Macron at airport

The pre-dawn rescue cost the lives of two French special forces officers.

Released French hostage Patrick Picque gets out of a plane to be welcomed by French President Emmanuel Macron (Francois Guillot/Pool/AP)
Released French hostage Patrick Picque gets out of a plane to be welcomed by French President Emmanuel Macron (Francois Guillot/Pool/AP)

President Emmanuel Macron greeted three former hostages as they arrived on French soil, one day after a military operation freed them in Burkina Faso.

The pre-dawn rescue cost the lives of two French special forces officers, as well as four “terrorists”.

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

The French tourists failed to return from a visit last week to the Pendjari National Park wildlife reserve in Benin, and their guide was discovered dead.

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French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, a South Korean hostage, French Defence Minister Florence Parly, and freed French hostage Laurent Lassimouillas walk on the tarmac at Villacoublay’s military airport (Francois Guillot/Pool/AP)

Officials said the hostages and their captors were in transit in Burkina Faso and the kidnappers intended to take them to Mali.

Mr Macron, who attended their arrival in France alongside Defence Minister Florence Parly, Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian and Army Chief of Staff Francois Lecointre, did not make a statement and will address the hostages’ ordeal and the soldiers’ deaths publicly next week.

A military ceremony for the commandos is planned.

A fourth hostage, an American woman, was also successfully rescued. It was not immediately known when and where the American and the South Korean were kidnapped.

Ms Parly called the rescue “an operation of rare difficulty” that grew more complex with the discovery of the American and South Korean hostages being held with the French citizens.

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A freed South Korean hostage with French President Emmanuel Macron (Francois Guillot/Pool/AP)

Earlier on Saturday, Burkina Faso President Roch Kabore received the French and South Korean citizens in the presidential palace in the capital, Ouagadougou.

He tweeted on Saturday he wished them a “safe return to their respective families”.

Mr Macron has thanked authorities in Burkina Faso and Benin for their cooperation and promised them support in fighting terrorism.

PA

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