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Benin ex-hostages arrive in Paris with presidential greeting

May 11, 2019
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Released French hostages Laurent Lassimouillas, left, and Patrick Picque, left, and Laurent Lassimouillas, 2nd right, are welcomed by French President Emmanuel Macron and French officials at Villacoublay's military airport, west of Paris, France, Saturday, May 11, 2019. Officials said two French special forces officers and four "terrorists" were killed in Friday's pre-dawn military operation in northern Burkina Faso.(Francois Guillot/Pool Photo via AP)

PARIS (AP) — French President Emmanuel Macron greeted three ex-hostages as they arrived on French soil Saturday, one day after a pre-dawn military operation freed them in Burkina Faso but cost the lives of two French special forces officers, as well as four “terrorists.”

The two French citizens, tourists Patrick Picque et Laurent Lassimouillas, as well as an unidentified South Korean national, arrived on the tarmac at Villacoublay military airport.

The French tourists failed to return from a visit last week to the Pendjari National Park wildlife reserve in Benin, and their guide was discovered dead.

Officials said the hostages and their captors were in transit in Burkina Faso and the kidnappers intended to take them to Mali.

Macron, who attended their arrival in France alongside Defense Minister Florence Parly, Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian and Army Chief of Staff Gen. Francois Lecointre, didn’t make a statement and will address the hostages’ ordeal and the soldiers’ deaths publicly next week. A military ceremony for the commandos is planned.

A fourth hostage, an American woman, was also successfully rescued. It was not immediately known when and where the American and the South Korean were kidnapped.

Parly had called the rescue “an operation of rare difficulty” that grew more complex with the discovery of the American and South Korean hostages being held with the French citizens.

Earlier Saturday, Burkina Faso President Roch Kabore received the French and South Korean citizens in the presidential palace in the capital, Ouagadougou.

Kabore tweeted Saturday he wished them a “safe return to their respective families.”

Macron has thanked authorities in Burkina Faso and Benin for their cooperation and promised them support in fighting terrorism.

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