This undated photograph obtained on May 10, 2019, shows Laurent Lassimouillas (L) and Patrick Picque posing at an undisclosed location. Image Credit: AFP

PARIS: French special forces have freed two French hostages, an American and a South Korean in northern Burkina Faso in an overnight military raid that cost the lives of two soldiers, the French presidency said Friday.

The operation was ordered to free the French hostages, identified as Patrick Picque and Laurent Lassimouillas, who disappeared while on holiday in the remote Pendjari National Park in Benin on May 1.

The identity of the American and South Korean hostages was not immediately known, but they were both said to be women.

The location of the raid confirmed that the French tourists had been kidnapped in Benin and taken over the border into Burkina Faso, where Islamist terror groups have stepped up attacks in recent months.

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.

“He bows with emotion and solemnity before the sacrifice of our two soldiers who gave their lives to save those of our citizens,” the statement added.

In a separate statement, Defence Minister Florence Parly thanked authorities in Benin and Burkina Faso, as well as the United States for its “precious support” in the operation.

France has thousands of regular troops and special forces as part of its Barkhane force stationed in the poverty-wracked and violence-hit Sahel region of northwest Africa.