France honours soldiers killed freeing hostages in Africa

PARIS (AP) – French President Emmanuel Macron yesterday 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,” 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”, Macron said. 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 last Friday in an operation that also left four extremists dead.

The officers were part of France’s Barkhane military operation aimed at rooting out extremists in Africa’s Sahel region. Macron vowed that France “will continue to fight tirelessly against terrorism” in the Sahel, the Syrian region and on French soil.

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