14 May 2019

Burkina Faso: France Honours Soldiers Killed in Hostage Rescue

France will on Tuesday pay its final respects to two commandos killed during a raid to rescue two French hostages in the Sahel region of Africa last week.

Update 10:35 Paris: This tweet sent by RFI's Stéphane Geneste‏ who was at Pont Alexandre III in Paris..

French special forces Cedric de Pierrepont, 33, and Alain Bertoncello, 28, who died in the operation in Burkina Faso, will be honoured in a ceremony at the Invalides military complex in Paris on Tuesday led by President Emmanuel Macron.

The ceremony will be broadcast live on our sister TV channel FRANCE 24 from 11pm Paris time (GMT+2).

The raid last week freed French hostages Patrick Picque and Laurent Lassimouillas who had been seized on May 1 while on a safari trip in a nature park in Benin close to the border with Burkina Faso.

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An American citizen and South Korean tourist - both women whose presence was a total surprise to the French forces - were also sprung from captivity in the operation overnight on Thursday-Friday.

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

The tourists were seized in an area of Benin that France has long advised travellers to avoid, Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said Saturday.

"The zone where our two citizens were has for some time now been considered a red zone, which means it's a zone where you shouldn't go, where you're taking significant risks if you do go," Le Drian told Europe 1 radio.

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

There has been an outpouring of grief in France over the sacrifice of the two young troops.

Defence Minister Florence 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.

The funeral procession on Tuesday will go over the Alexander III bridge in central Paris where ordinary French citizens have been invited to pay their respects.

Macron will then lead a private commemoration ceremony at the Invalides for the two soldiers from the elite Hubert squad of the French navy's special forces.

"He died for what he loved doing, for the thing that made him proud. He was doing his job. This is what he would tell me," Cedric de Pierrepont's partner Florence Charton told TF1 TV.

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