French officials say the American hostage who was freed in Burkina Faso thanks to a French special forces raid would have been given to a group linked to Al Qaeda.
French Special Forces officers on Friday liberated two French tourists who had been visiting a wildlife reserve in Benin, as well as an American and a South Korean from a West African military camp. Two soldiers died as a result of the operation that also killed four extremists.
Army Chief of Staff Gen. Francois Lecointre told the media that while the exact identity of the captors remains unknown, the hostages were being transported towards Mali and were intended to be transferred to Katibat Macina, a group allied with Al Qaeda, NBC News reported.
He added that the captors’ intentions to transfer the hostages were part of the reason why the French forces had to strike early.
The identity of the American woman remains unclear. She has been put in the care of U.S. authorities. French and South Korean nationals, meanwhile, were greeted by President Emmanuel Macron at a French military airport on Saturday.
Macron on Tuesday defended the military operation as he attended the funeral ceremony of the two Marine commandos, Cedric de Pierrepont and Alain Bertoncello.
“The mission was perilous. The mission was necessary,” Macron said in an emotional speech at the gold-domed Invalides monument that houses Napoleon’s tomb. “We had to save them,” he said.
Macron also echoed Lecointre’s comments in the speech, saying that the kidnappers were planning to hand over the hostages to “terrorists” in Mali within a few hours.
“France is a nation that doesn’t abandon its children, whatever the circumstances,” he said. “Those at the other end of the planet, those who attack a French person, should know that our country will never back down.”
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