On the evening hours of May 11, 2019, French frogmen from the elite Commando Hubert conducted a daring hostage rescue operation in Burkina Faso. The operation was successful as the four hostages, two French, one South Korean, and one American, were rescued. However, two French commandos died from enemy fire.

The two commandos were identified as Petty Officer First Class Cedric de Pierrepont, age 32, and Petty Officer First Class  Alain Bertoncello, age 27.

Commando Hubert is an elite outfit akin to the American Naval Special Warfare Development Group (DEVGRU), also known as SEAL Team 6, and the British Special Boat Service (SBS).

The four hostages had been captured in neighboring Benin and where being transferred by the terrorists to Mali. French and American intelligence believed that once they had reached Mali, who is a hotbed of terrorism, the terrorists would hand the four men to a more radical group. So, when the Jihadists made a stop close to the Malian border in order to sleep, the French commanders gave the greenlight for the operation. The rest is history.

Television caption from the state funeral in Paris.

“He was my baby, my youngest,” had said the mother of Cedric du Pierrepont in a moving message following the state funeral. “I raised him alone from a very young age. I can’t accept it yet. He gave his all [in his job] but was also very discreet. He was such a nice boy.”

The French government gave the two commandos a state funeral. De Pierrepont and Bertoncello were also posthumously accepted in the Légion d’honneur as knights.

On the one-year anniversary of the engagement, his fiancé said “It has already been a year since they came to tell me the unthinkable. That day a part of me flew away with you. One year since [that day], my life is a fight to deal with your absence and learn to accept it. From that day my love, you are part of history and you will forever be part of my life.”

It was only during the raid that the French commandos discovered the presence of the South Korean and American hostages. Indeed, U.S. intelligence was unaware that an American had been kidnapped.

Although little is known of how the South Korean and American were captured by the Islamic terrorists, the two Frenchmen (Patrick Picque and Laurent Lassimouillas) were captured while participating in a Safari expedition in Benin. The revelation sparked some backlash against the two men in the French public opinion as the government had made it clear that the area was dangerous and shouldn’t be visited.  Ignorance, or worse, recklessness can be fatal.