Emmanuel Macron defends hostage rescue operation after special forces deaths

France’s President Emmanuel Macron has defended a military operation to free hostages held in Burkina Faso that left two French special forces officers dead.

Crowds lined the Alexander III Bridge in central Paris as the funeral cortege carrying the coffins of the two Marine commandos drove slowly past, part of an elaborate national ceremony honouring the men.

“The mission was perilous. The mission was necessary,” Mr Macron said in a solemn, emotional speech at the gold-domed Invalides monument that houses Napoleon’s tomb.

French hostages “were under threat. We had to save them”, Mr Macron said.

French President Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte (Philippe Wojazer/AP)

He shook hands with members of the special forces who attended the ceremony with scarves over their faces to conceal their identities.

The two officers, Cedric de Pierrepont and Alain Bertoncello, were killed on Friday in an operation that also left four extremists dead.

The officers were part of France’s Barkhane military operation aimed at rooting out Islamic extremists in Africa’s Sahel region.

France is a nation that doesn't abandon its children, whatever the circumstances

Mr Macron vowed that France “will continue to fight tirelessly against terrorism” in the Sahel, the Syrian region and on French soil.

The operation liberated two French tourists who had been visiting a wildlife reserve in Benin, as well as an American and a South Korean.

Mr Macron paid his respects to the French tourists’ local guide, who was killed by the hostage-takers.

The tourists drew criticism in France for venturing into an area near Benin’s border with Burkina Faso that is known to be dangerous.

French soldiers of the Commando Hubert pay tribute in front of the two flag-draped coffins (Christophe Petit Tesson/AP)

The criticism peaked with Mr Macron’s decision to greet the freed captives at a French military airport Saturday, along with the South Korean hostage.

No information was publicly released about the identity of the American woman, who was put in the care of US authorities.

Mr Macron justified the operation in his speech honouring the officers on Tuesday, saying that the kidnappers were planning to hand over the hostages to “terrorists” in Mali within a few hours.

“France is a nation that doesn’t abandon its children, whatever the circumstances,” he said.

“Those at the other end of the planet, those who attack a French person, should know that our country will never back down.”

- Press Association

More on this topic

Eiffel Tower closed after visitor tries to scale it

Macron marks Second World War anniversary at Tomb of Unknown Soldier

Armed man takes hostages at store in France

Macron set to offer solutions to French yellow vest concerns

More in this Section

Family pay tribute to ‘aspirational’ British climber who died on Everest

India poll winner Narendra Modi wins backing from allies for new term as PM

59,000 sign petition backing doctor who asked Muslim patient to remove veil

Donald Trump arrives in Tokyo for state visit, golf and sumo


Lifestyle

Gardening: Something for everyone at Chelsea Flower Show

Restaurant review: Ristorante Rinuccini - Kilkenny

The Wine List: Will 2019 see the rise of rosé in Ireland?

The Menu: Food news with Joe McNamee

More From The Irish Examiner