French forces rescue American during raid to free tourists in Burkina Faso

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WORLD NEWS French forces rescue American during raid to free tourists in Burkina Faso

iStock/MicroStockHub(PARIS) — French soldiers led a successful raid to free two tourists who had been kidnapped in Burkina Faso, West Africa, and ended up also freeing an American and a South Korean who they were unaware had been abducted.

Several U.S. officials told ABC News that the U.S. government was unaware until Friday that the American woman was being held.

French and U.S. officials on Friday expressed relief at the safe rescue of the four captives during the mission, which left two French soldiers dead.

The U.S. forces had not been involved in the raid, French defense officials said at a news conference in Paris, but had provided some intelligence support, which helped French forces locate the hostages and their kidnappers.

“It seems these two other hostages [the American and South Korean] had been held hostage for 28 days,” said Francois Lecointre, the chief of staff of the French armed forces.

French Minister of the Armed Forces Florence Parly said French authorities “don’t know much” about the American and South Korean women but that “they are in a safe place.”

Conversations with U.S. and South Korean officials appeared to confirm that neither country had known about the hostages, Parly said.

French officials didn’t share the American’s identity or provide any more information about her.

The spokesperson with the U.S. State Department confirmed that an American had been freed, but would not say if U.S. officials were aware, prior to the raid, that an American woman was being held hostage.

“We are grateful for the successful recovery of four hostages, including a U.S. citizen,” the spokesperson said. “We offer sincerest condolences to the families of the two French soldiers killed during the operation.”

The two French tourists had been on safari in the Pendjari National Park in Benin, near the Burkina Faso border, when they disappeared along with their tour guide on May 1. Three days later the tour guide, identified as Fiacre Gbedji, was found dead in the park, according to Benin’s Ministry of Interior and Public Safety.

Al-Qaeda and ISIS were known to operate in the area, officials said at the press conference, but they did not say that either of those groups, or any Islamist extremist groups, were involved.

The French soldiers who died have been identified as Cédric de Pierrepont and Alain Bertoncello, and both were under the command of the special operations, the French president said in a statement.

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