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Two French soldiers die in raid to free hostages in Benin

In this file photograph taken on January 10, 2018, a ranger stands guard on top of a vehicle at Pendjari National Park, near Tanguieta in Benin. Searches are continuing to locate the two French tourists who have not be
In this file photograph taken on January 10, 2018, a ranger stands guard on top of a vehicle at Pendjari National Park, near Tanguieta in Benin. Searches are continuing to locate the two French tourists who have not be STEFAN HEUNIS / AFP

French forces have freed two French hostages as well as an American and a South Korean during a military raid in northern Burkina Faso which left two soldiers and four hostage takers dead, the French presidency said on Friday.

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Patrick Picque and Laurent Lassimouillas, both music teachers from the Paris region, disappeared in the Pendjari National Park in Benin on 1 May. They are expected to return to France over the weekend.

Picque's father, Jean-Claude Picque, said on Friday: "We are relieved at the good news. We'll be in Paris to welcome them home."

A statement from the presidency added: "President Emmanuel Macron wants to congratulate the French armed forces for the liberation of the hostages.

"He bows with emotion and solemnity before the sacrifice of our two soldiers who gave their lives to save those of our citizens."

In a separate statement, the Defence Minister, Florence Parly, thanked authorities in Benin, Burkina Faso and the United States for their help with the operation.

France has 4,500 troops deployed in Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and Chad in a mission codenamed Barkhane to help local forces try to flush out jihadist groups.

Burkina Faso has suffered from frequent attacks attributed to several jihadist groups, including the Ansarul Islam group, the Group to Support Islam and Muslims and Islamic State in the Greater Sahara.
 

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