President Emmanuel Macron of France on Tuesday defended ordering commandos to free hostages held in Burkina Faso as he paid tribute to two French special forces who died in the daring operation.
His defence came amid a row over the risks taken by the tourists.
French special forces Cedric de Pierrepont, 33, and Alain Bertoncello, 28, were honoured at an emotional ceremony at the gold-domed Invalides in Paris – which houses Napoleon’s tomb.
Crowds of well-wishers lined the bridge Alexandre III leading up to the 17th-century building.
"The mission was perilous. The mission was necessary," a visibly moved Mr Macron said in his speech during a 45-minute ceremony attended by family members and masked fellow special forces.
"France is a country that does not abandon its children, no matter the circumstances. Those at the other end of the planet, those who attack a French person, should know that our country will never back down," he went on.
"We’re here to affirm, with all the force this anger and sadness gives us, that we will never retreat from the fights for which you committed yourself and gave your lives."
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The raid last week freed French hostages Patrick Picque and Laurent Lassimouillas, who were seized on May 1 while on a safari trip in a nature park in Benin close to the border with Burkina Faso.
An American citizen and South Korean tourist, whose presence was unknown until their release, were also saved in the operation overnight last Thursday night.
The soldiers were able to creep 200 yards in the dark across open ground without alerting a sentry. “It was an extremely complex operation, regulated like extremely fine clockwork,” said General François Lecointre, chief of staff of the armed forces afterwards. The hostages had been located in the north of the west African state thanks to a tip off from US intelligence.
The kidnapping has highlighted growing instability in the vast Sahel region that lies south of the Sahara desert, a base for Islamist groups aligned to Al-Qaeda and Islamic State.
Beyond national mourning, there has been criticism of the French tourists who were visiting a high-risk area subject to a foreign ministry travel warning.
On Saturday, French foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian berated the freed men for taking "significant risks" by visiting an area that was considered a "red" no-go zone under travel advice issued by his ministry.
French far-right leader Marine Le Pen also criticised Mr Macron for welcoming the tourists off the plane when they arrived at a military airport outside Paris.
"The president shouldn’t have gone to greet them almost as if they were heroes," Ms Le Pen told BFM TV.
But Mr Macron justified the operation in his speech honoring the slain officers, saying that the kidnappers were planning to hand over the hostages to "terrorists" in Mali within a few hours.