National tribute to rescue soldiers amid row over hostage welcome
French President Emmanuel Macron will pay tribute to the two soldiers who died in an operation to rescue hostages in Burkina Faso in a special service on Tuesday, amid a row about the welcome given to the two French hostages on their return.
Hubert Falco, right wing mayor of Toulon, the southern French town near the soldiers’ military base, voiced his disapproval of the formal presidential welcome for the two French hostages as they landed on French soil. Falco called the freed hostages “reckless tourists”.
Speaking on arrival in France, one of the rescued hostages recognised that he and his travelling companion had disregarded official warnings against visiting areas of northern Benin near the border with Burkina Faso.
“Certainly we should have paid more heed to government advice [on areas considered unsafe for tourists]”, said Laurent Lassimouillas of himself and fellow traveller Patrick Picque.
However, a source close to President Macron explained that as Commander in Chief of the French army, the president had ordered the rescue operation and considered it his duty to be there when the hostages arrived in France.
The source underlined that Emmanuel Macron was “president of all the French people, including those who behave recklessly.”
The two soldiers who lost their lives during the rescue, Cédric de Pierrepont and Alain Bertoncello have been hailed in France as heroes.
“They gave their lives to free others”, President Macron wrote on twitter, ahead of a formal national tribute taking place at Les Invalides in Paris tomorrow.
Two other women hostages, an unnamed South Korean and an American, were also rescued during the operation.
They were discovered during the raid and had apparently been held by the captors for a month.
The disfigured body of the tourists’ guide, Fiacre Gbédji from Benin, was found shortly after the two French tourists were first reported missing.