'Hostages freed' by French in Burkina Faso

European Union leaders on Thursday start to set out a course for increased political cooperation in the wake of the impending depar

South Korea had confirmed the identity of the South Korean hostage, a woman in her 40s, its foreign ministry said.

Released French hostages Laurent Lassimouillas, left, and Patrick Picque are welcomed by French officials at Villacoublay's military airport.

A fourth freed hostage, an American national, is expected to be repatriated separately.

A South Korean woman, who was rescued by the French military after almost a month of captivity in the western African country of Burkina Faso, remains in good health, Seoul's foreign ministry said Sunday. Earlier in the day, the hostages paid their respects to two soldiers who died in the rescue.

President Emmanuel Macron "wants to congratulate the French armed forces for the liberation of the hostages, and includes everyone who worked alongside them", a statement from the presidency said.

Al-Qaida and ISIS were known to operate in the area, officials said at the press conference, but they did not say that either of those groups, or any Islamist extremist groups, were involved. The two will be honored in a national tribute Tuesday, Macron said.

French soldiers Cédric de Pierrepont and Alain Bertoncello were killed in the raid.

When contacted by NPR about the operation Friday, the U.S. State Department did not offer a direct comment.

At least two of the hostages were captured in neighboring Benin.

"All our thoughts go out to the families of the soldiers and to the soldiers", said Laurent Lassimouillas, one of the hostages, the BBC reported.

The disfigured body of their Beninese tour guide was found shortly after their disappearance.

There were six kidnappers, four of whom were killed, with the other two on the run, French authorities said.

A military ceremony for the commandos is planned for next week.

"The threat is evolving and has become much more mobile, and now countries to the south of Mali have become targets", Le Drian said on Saturday.

"The greatest precautions must be taken in these regions to avoid these types of kidnappings, and avoid the sacrifices required by our soldiers", he said.

Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger formed the G5 Sahel group in 2014 to co-operate on development and security.

Burkina Faso lies in the heart of the Sahel, a vast semi-arid region bordering the Sahara.

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