French special forces liberated four hostages in Burkina Faso late last week in a raid that killed two of the elite soldiers.
Cedric de Pierrepont and Alain Bertoncello were killed during the nocturnal raid to rescue two French citizens, Laurent Lassimouillas and Patrick Picque. During the operation, two additional hostages were discovered in the enemy camp, which were not identified by initial intelligence reports. These hostages, an American and a South Korean, were also released.
The French authorities said the hostage-takers were terrorists who kidnapped the two French tourists Lassimouillas and Picque on 1
According to the BBC, the kidnappers were on their way to Mali. It is believed that they intended to hand over the hostages to the militant group Katiba Macina.
"Once the hostages were in [Katiba Macina’s] hands, it would have been impossible to save them," said Francois Lecointre, France's army chief, in a press conference.
Four of the kidnappers were killed in the rescue and two were said to have fled. Although no group has taken responsibility for the kidnapping, the authorities stress that groups affiliated with Al Qaeda and the Islamic State are both active in the region.
The military minister, Florence Parly, said the two women were detained for 28 days, and that despite the special forces supported by the US intelligence services, neither the US nor South Korea knew that their citizens had been abducted.
"Contacts [with those countries] show that countries were not necessarily aware of their presence," said Parly.
Both women are returned to their home countries.
A US State Department spokeswoman told Reuters that the US was grateful for the rescue and officially expressed its condolences to the families of the fallen soldiers.
In a press conference following a meeting with Macron in France on Saturday, Lassimouillas also extended his condolences to the families of the fallen troops and to the family of his safari leader. He also said that he regretted that he had disregarded the government's travel warning and that he wished he had "avoided this magnificent region of the world, which unfortunately fell into instability."
French President Emmanuel Macron met with the hostages when she arrived in France on Saturday honoring the soldiers who died on Friday.
"They gave their lives to liberate others," Macron said on Twitter Friday by de Pierrepont and Bertoncello. Macron announced an official memorial service for the two men to take place in Paris on Tuesday.
Bertoncello's parents, Jean-Luc and Daniéle Bertoncello, said he had wanted to become a Marine since high school and that they were proud of him.
"What he loved was the esprit de corps … he did what he wanted and he always told us not to worry," they said in an interview with RTL Radio. "They did what they had to do. For him it ended badly, for the others it was a successful mission. "