Freed American hostage in Burkina Faso was destined to be transferred to Al Qaeda, French officials say

French officials say the American hostage who was freed in Burkina Faso thanks to a French special forces raid would have been given to a group linked to Al Qaeda.

French Special Forces officers on Friday liberated two French tourists who had been visiting a wildlife reserve in Benin, as well as an American and a South Korean from a West African military camp. Two soldiers died as a result of the operation that also killed four extremists.

PRESIDENT MACRON MEETS WITH HOSTAGES FROM WEST AFRICAN MILITANT CAMP, PAYS TRIBUTE TO HEROES KILLED IN RESCUE MISSION

French President Emmanuel Macron shakes hands with special forces soldiers during a national tribute for late special forces soldiers Cedric de Pierrepont and Alain Bertoncello, who were killed in a night-time rescue of four foreign hostages including two French citizens in Burkina Faso last week, at the Invalides, in Paris, Tuesday, May 14, 2019. France is honoring two special forces officers killed in an operation that freed four hostages held in Burkina Faso.

French President Emmanuel Macron shakes hands with special forces soldiers during a national tribute for late special forces soldiers Cedric de Pierrepont and Alain Bertoncello, who were killed in a night-time rescue of four foreign hostages including two French citizens in Burkina Faso last week, at the Invalides, in Paris, Tuesday, May 14, 2019. France is honoring two special forces officers killed in an operation that freed four hostages held in Burkina Faso. (Philippe Wojazer/Pool via AP)

Army Chief of Staff Gen. Francois Lecointre told the media that while the exact identity of the captors remains unknown, the hostages were being transported towards Mali and were intended to be transferred to Katibat Macina, a group allied with Al Qaeda, NBC News reported.

He added that the captors’ intentions to transfer the hostages were part of the reason why the French forces had to strike early.

A special forces soldier places a rope between the flag-drapped coffins of late special forces soldiers Cedric de Pierrepont and Alain Bertoncello, who were killed in a night-time rescue of four foreign hostages including two French citizens in Burkina Faso last week, during a national tribute at the Invalides, in Paris, Tuesday, May 14, 2019. France is honoring two special forces officers killed in an operation that freed four hostages held in Burkina Faso.

A special forces soldier places a rope between the flag-drapped coffins of late special forces soldiers Cedric de Pierrepont and Alain Bertoncello, who were killed in a night-time rescue of four foreign hostages including two French citizens in Burkina Faso last week, during a national tribute at the Invalides, in Paris, Tuesday, May 14, 2019. France is honoring two special forces officers killed in an operation that freed four hostages held in Burkina Faso. (Philippe Wojazer/Pool via AP)

The identity of the American woman remains unclear. She has been put in the care of U.S. authorities. French and South Korean nationals, meanwhile, were greeted by President Emmanuel Macron at a French military airport on Saturday.

2 DECORATED FRENCH SOLDIERS KILLED IN RESCUE MISSION THAT SAVED AMERICAN, OTHER HOSTAGES IN AFRICA

French President Emmanuel Macron honors the late special forces soldiers Cedric de Pierrepont and Alain Bertoncello, who were killed in a night-time rescue of four foreign hostages including two French citizens in Burkina Faso last week, during a national tribute at the Invalides, in Paris, Tuesday, May 14, 2019. France is honoring two special forces officers killed in an operation that freed four hostages held in Burkina Faso.

French President Emmanuel Macron honors the late special forces soldiers Cedric de Pierrepont and Alain Bertoncello, who were killed in a night-time rescue of four foreign hostages including two French citizens in Burkina Faso last week, during a national tribute at the Invalides, in Paris, Tuesday, May 14, 2019. France is honoring two special forces officers killed in an operation that freed four hostages held in Burkina Faso. (Philippe Wojazer/Pool via AP)

Macron on Tuesday defended the military operation as he attended the funeral ceremony of the two Marine commandos, Cedric de Pierrepont and Alain Bertoncello.

“The mission was perilous. The mission was necessary,” Macron said in an emotional speech at the gold-domed Invalides monument that houses Napoleon’s tomb. “We had to save them,” he said.

Macron also echoed Lecointre’s comments in the speech, saying that the kidnappers were planning to hand over the hostages to “terrorists” in Mali within a few hours.

Special forces soldiers carry the flag-drapped coffins of late special forces soldiers Cedric de Pierrepont and Alain Bertoncello, who were killed in a night-time rescue of four foreign hostages including two French citizens in Burkina Faso last week, during a national tribute at the Invalides, in Paris, Tuesday, May 14, 2019. France is honoring two special forces officers killed in an operation that freed four hostages held in Burkina Faso.

Special forces soldiers carry the flag-drapped coffins of late special forces soldiers Cedric de Pierrepont and Alain Bertoncello, who were killed in a night-time rescue of four foreign hostages including two French citizens in Burkina Faso last week, during a national tribute at the Invalides, in Paris, Tuesday, May 14, 2019. France is honoring two special forces officers killed in an operation that freed four hostages held in Burkina Faso. (Philippe Wojazer/Pool via AP)

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“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.”