Kidnapped French tourists were in Benin 'red zone': minister

Kidnapped French tourists were in Benin 'red zone': minister

Kidnapped French tourists were in Benin 'red zone': minister

Army Chief of Staff Gen. Francois Lecointre said the hostages and their captors were in transit in Burkina Faso "with the intention of the kidnappers to take them to Mali", according to French newspaper Le Monde.

Seoul's defense minister Jeong Kyeong-doo spoke with his French counterpart the same day, and expressed deep gratitude for the rescue, also sending his condolences for the fallen French soldiers.

The three are due to be welcomed by French President Emmanuel Macron at a military airport outside Paris later on Saturday.

Frenchmen Patrick Picque and Laurent Lassimouillas disappeared in the remote Pendjari National Park in Benin where they had been on safari.

"We were not aware of their presence. the American will be repatriated separately", Florence Parly told a news conference.

Two French tourists who were held hostage in Burkina Faso have thanked the French soldiers who "lost their lives to free us from this hell".

The two French soldiers who died were killed at close quarters as they entered one of the kidnappers' four shelters, the general said.

Macron spoke to the hostages as they got off the plane at the Villacoublay Air Base southwest of Paris, making note of the sacrifice made by the Special Forces officers.

Two French soldiers were killed in the overnight raid, which was supported by USA intelligence, reports Reuters.

The identities of the American and South Korean women were not known.

At least two of the hostages were captured in neighboring Benin. The region has seen an increase in violence by militants linked to al-Qaida and Islamic State in recent years.

When the gang stopped in northern Burkina Faso on Thursday night, the military considered this to be the final opportunity to intervene before the hostages were transferred to Islamist militants in Mali - where a rescue operation would have been too risky. A military ceremony for the commandos is planned.

They were assisted by Burkina and Benin authorities and by the United States, which provided intelligence and support.

The raid resulted in the death of two French soldiers.

France's Operation Barkhane counts some 4500 troops deployed in Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and Chad to help local forces battle jihadist groups.

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