In the early morning hours of May 11, French special operations forces (SOF) rescued four hostages, to include an American, during an audacious hostage rescue operation against a terrorist camp in Burkina Faso. Two French commandos, however, were killed in action during the operation.
The four hostages included one American, one South Korean, and two French citizens, Patrick Picque and Laurent Lassimouillas.
According to the emerging reports, the French commandos and U.S. intelligence were unaware of the presence of the American and South Korean hostages. They were just attempting to rescue the two Frenchmen who had vanished early in May while on safari in the neighboring country of Benin.
Four terrorists were killed, but two managed to escape in the confusion.
The French Ministry of the Armed Forces announced that the two commandos were assigned to Commando Hubert, a naval SOF unit and approximate equivalent of the U.S. Navy SEALs. The operators were identified as Petty Officers First Class (OR-6) Cedric de Pierrepont, age 32, and Alain Bertoncello, age 27.
Francois Lecointre, the French army chief, said, “The precise and determined actions of French soldiers allowed us to take out the kidnappers while protecting the lives of the hostages.”
The president of Burkina Faso, Roch Kabore, said that “the joint military intervention that allowed us to achieve these results shows our common engagement in fighting against the forces of evil.”
French President Emmanuel Macron said in a statement that the French nation and government “bow with emotion and solemnity before the sacrifice of our two soldiers who gave their lives to save those of our citizens.”
Commando Hubert falls under the Force des Fusiliers Marins et Commandos (FORFUSCO). It is one of the French Navy’s seven SOF teams.
Florence Parly, the French defense minister, said, “Those who attack France and the French know that we will spare no effort to track them and take them out. We will never abandon our citizens.”
Speaking about the American and South Korean hostages, Parly added, “The contacts we have had in recent hours with the United States and South Korea indicate that these countries were probably not aware of the presence of their nationals on Burkina territory.”
Burkina Faso has been plagued by violence since 2013, when Islamist terrorists came very close to taking complete control of neighboring Mali. A strong French military response checked them. But terrorist groups are still ravaging the region.