Four hostages rescued in Sahel, including two French tourists kidnapped in Benin


Four hostages have been rescued in Burkina Faso, the French presidency said Friday, including two French tourists kidnapped in Benin on May 1 and an American and a South Korean national. Two French soldiers were killed in the rescue operation.

“Their liberation was made possible by a military operation led by French forces overnight from Thursday to Friday in northern Burkina Faso,” the Élysée Palace said in a statement.

The Élysée identified the two special forces soldiers who were killed during the mission.

“During the operation two soldiers were killed in action, Cédric de Pierrepont and Alain Bertoncello, both petty officers under the command of special operations.”

French authorities feared the worst when the body of a Benin tour guide was found in Pendjari National Park and the two French tourists with him, Patrick Picque and Laurent Lassimouillas, were kidnapped.

The four-wheel drive Toyota they were in was found incinerated, hundreds of miles away “without its occupants”, a security source told AFP.

France had confirmed that efforts were under way to find the pair. The two were believed to have crossed the river separating Benin from Burkina Faso.

“We know that they crossed the river on foot because traces of their transit were found,” FRANCE 24 correspondent Emmanuelle Sodji reported at the time.

Pendjari is one of the largest remaining conservation regions for elephants and lions in West Africa, according to a park official.

It is a vast area of 4,800 square kilometres (1,850 square miles) but part of a far larger wilderness area spreading into Burkina Faso and Niger to the north.

Benin is considered an island of stability in West Africa, a troubled region where many jihadist groups operate, but Pendjari lies on the porous and remote border with Burkina Faso, which has been hard hit by militant violence.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

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