French special forces have rescued four foreign hostages from Burkina Faso but lost two of their elite soldiers in the mission. France’s military said the special forces carried out the raid during a predawn operation Friday, supported by U.S. intelligence.
President Emmanuel Macron’s office said all four hostages were safe. Two of the hostages are French, one is American and one is South Korean.
French Defense Minister Florence Parly told a news conference Friday that no one involved in the operation knew about the presence of the American and South Korean hostages, only the French ones.
A spokeswoman for the U.S. State Department said the United States was grateful for the successful recovery of the hostages.
The two French tourists went missing last week during a visit to the Pendjari National Park wildlife reserve in Benin. Their guide was later found dead and their captors were tracked to neighboring Burkina Faso.
Macron expressed condolences in a Friday statement over the deaths of two French commandos who were killed during the operation. A military ceremony is planned for them next week.
France’s army chief Francois Lecointre told reporters that four kidnappers were killed in the operation and two escaped. He described the kidnappers as "terrorists."
France has about 4,500 troops in Africa’s Sahel region to help local governments fight Islamist extremists. The region has seen an increase in violence by militants linked to al-Qaida and Islamic State in recent years.