French troops free hostages in Burkina Faso

Four foreign hostages have been freed by French forces in the West African country of Burkina Faso, France says.

Commanders launched the operation to rescue two French tourists snatched in neighbouring Benin earlier this month, before they could be handed over to militants in Mali.

During the raid special forces found the kidnappers were also holding a US woman and a South Korean woman.

Two French soldiers and four kidnappers were killed during the raid.

What do we know about the raid?

The night operation took place in the north of Burkina Faso as the kidnappers stopped on their journey towards Mali, the head of the French military said.

Commanders decided to launch the raid because the kidnappers were close to the Malian border and were believed to be planning to hand the hostages over to the Mali-based militant group Katiba Macina.

“Once the hostages were in their hands it would have been impossible to rescue them,” General François Lecointre told reporters.

Gen Lecointre said that during the raid, special forces had covered 200m of open ground and got to within 10m of the shelter where the hostages were being held before being spotted by a guard.

The two French soldiers who died were killed at close quarters as they entered one of the kidnappers’ four shelters, he said. Two of the kidnappers escaped.

The special forces did not expect to find the US and South Korean hostages because there had been no information that the kidnappers were holding anyone else, French Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly said.

Ms Parly said the kidnappers’ identity was not yet known but there were two main militant groups operating near where the French tourists were taken, one linked to al-Qaeda and the other to the Islamic State group.

The two soldiers who were killed during the rescue were named as Cédric de Pierrepont and Alain Bertoncello. The French military posted their photos on social media.