French ex-Hostages Freed in Burkina Faso Have Returned to France

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French ex-hostages freed from Burkina Faso return to France

Emmanuel Macron received soberly Saturday 11th May, 2019 the two hostages released in northern Burkina Faso at the cost of the death of two French soldiers.

The two French hostages released by the French special forces in northern Burkina Faso at the cost of the death of two soldiers were greeted Saturday, May 11, 2019 with sobriety by President Emmanuel Macron .

The President of the Republic greeted them briefly, as did the ex-South Korean hostage released at the same time as them, at the foot of the footbridge of an Air Force Falcon who had just to pose on the air base of Villacoublay, in the south of Paris.

The head of state then spoke a few minutes off-camera with the hostages and their families, before disappearing.

“The duty of the state is to ensure the safety of the French, wherever they are, including in extreme conditions abroad,” said Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian , before expressing “an emotional thought for Sophie Petronin “, French held hostage in Mali for three and a half years.

President Macron welcomes ex-hostages from Burkina Faso to Villacoublay on May 11, 2019.
President Macron welcomes ex-hostages from Burkina Faso to Villacoublay on May 11, 2019. (© POOL / AFP / FRANCOIS GUILLOT)

Mea culpa hostages

“As long as French citizens are threatened and we will receive the decision to go and get them, we will go and get them,” Vice Admiral Laurent Isnard, head of the Special Operations Command, said in an interview with JDD.

“It is our job, it is our mission and we will continue to do it. There is no doubt about it (…) we are ready to start again tomorrow morning.”

The mayor LR of Toulon – capital of the department where the soldiers were killed -, Hubert Falco, said on Saturday “refusing to” endorse the solemn reception envisaged “for the ex-hostages, whom he called” tourists unconscious “.

“Certainly we should have taken more account of the recommendations of the state and the complexity of Africa, and avoid going to this beautiful region of the world which unfortunately is changing instability,” said his side Laurent Lassimouillas, one of the ex-hostages.

Patrick Picque and Laurent Lassimouillas were kidnapped on May 1 during a tourist stay in Benin , a country previously spared by insecurity in West Africa but in a zone not recommended by the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs. They were released in the night from Thursday to Friday at the same time as a South Korean and an American woman who had been captive for 28 days. The South Korean hostage was also brought back to Villacoublay on Saturday.

The two French and the former South Korean hostage arrived Saturday morning at the presidential palace of Ouagadougou , without the ex-American hostage.

Jean-Yves Le Drian, Minister of Foreign Affairs, and Florence Parly, Minister of Defense, May 11, 2019 in Villacoublay.
Jean-Yves Le Drian, Minister of Foreign Affairs, and Florence Parly, Minister of Defense, May 11, 2019 in Villacoublay. (© POOL / AFP / FRANCOIS GUILLOT)

National tribute to the two soldiers killed

A national tribute will be made Tuesday in Paris to the two soldiers killed during the intervention.

Members of the Hubert commando, an elite unit of the French Navy, the master Cédric de Pierrepont and the master Alain Bertoncello were hailed as “heroes” by the entire French political class.

“They gave their lives to free others,” wrote Emmanuel Macron on Twitter.

The hostage liberation operation was “made possible by the mobilisation of the means of the French anti-Jihadist force in the Sahel Barkhane, the logistical support of the Burkinabè forces and the American intelligence support,” said the head of state. French major, General François Lecointre.

As for the two other freed hostages, the American and the South Korean, “nobody knew about their presence” in Burkina, he said.

The French followed the evolution of the kidnappers for several days and seized the opportunity to act because of the risk of “transfer of these hostages to another terrorist organisation that operates in Mali (…) Katiba Macina” preacher Amadou Koufa , which would have made “impossible to organise any operation of liberation,” he detailed.

The identity of the hostage takers is still unknown.

The French army releases 4 hostages. from Burkina Faso
The French army releases 4 hostages. (© AFP /)

” Red zone “

“What we can say is that there are two main terrorist movements that operate in this area and are affiliated for one to Al Qaeda, for the other to the EIGS (Islamic State at Large). Sahara), “said Florence Parly.

The jihadist attacks, initially concentrated in northern Mali, have spread to the center of the country and then to Burkina Faso and now threaten the coastal countries of the Gulf of Guinea, previously spared.

“We must keep the pressure on these groups,” said Saturday Jean-Yves Le Drian, judging the action of the French force Barkhane “absolutely essential” in this context.

This anti-jihadist force has 4500 soldiers in five countries of the Sahel (Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, Chad and Mauritania). Mr. Le Drian recalled that “the area where our two compatriots were was already considered for quite some time as a red zone, that is to say an area where we must not go, where we take major risks if we go there. “

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