PARIS — A raid led by French armed forces rescued four hostages in northern Burkina Faso on Friday, the French government said in a statement. Two French soldiers died in the overnight raid.
The hostages included two Frenchmen, an American and a South Korean. It was not clear who had abducted them or was holding them, but a number of armed insurgent and terrorist groups, including the Islamic State and Al Qaeda, operate in the region.
Patrick Picque and M. Laurent Lassimouillas, the two French citizens, were abducted on May 1 while on vacation in Benin’s Pendjari National Park, on the border with Burkina Faso, where terror groups have stepped up attacks in recent months. Their car was found burned and their driver dead.
The identities of the American and South Korean citizens, both women, were not immediately made public by French authorities.
“The fight against terrorism and the protection of our citizens have always been, are and will remain the compass of our armies and military,” Florence Parly, France’s armed forces minister, said in a news release. “The terrorists who attack France and the French must know that we won’t spare our efforts to hunt them and fight them.”
President Emmanuel Macron “bows with emotion and solemnity before the sacrifice of our two soldiers who gave their lives to save those of our citizens,” the statement read.
The government did not say if there were casualties among those holding the hostages.
Between November and late March, more than 4,770 people were killed in the Sahel, the sub-Saharan region of northern Africa, according to the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project, as a recent surge of violence between ethnic groups, including bombings, massacres and abductions, has torn the region.
Ms. Parly thanked Benin and Burkina Faso for their cooperation in her news release, and the acknowledged the “precious” intelligence support of American forces. Some 4,500 French troops are deployed in an antiterrorism operation across a vast territory that stretches across five countries, from Mauritania in the West to Chad.
Despite the surge of violence in the region, the Trump administration plans to reduce the United States military presence in Africa, including a reduction from 1,200 Special Operations troops to about 900 by early 2022.