- Two French soldiers in Mali were killed after their
vehicle hit a bomb during “an intelligence mission”.
- This follows the death of three other soldiers,
killed in a similar way just days earlier.
- France’s Barkhane force is in the Sahel region to
help in the fight against jihadist groups.
Paris – Two French soldiers died when their vehicle
hit an improvised explosive device in northeastern Mali on Saturday, just days
after three others were killed in similar fashion.
Their deaths brought to 50 the number of French
soldiers killed in the West African nation since France first intervened in
2013 to help drive back jihadist forces, according to army staff.
President Emmanuel Macron “learnt with great
sadness” of the deaths of sergeant Yvonne Huynh and corporal Loic Risser
in the Menaka region, his office said.
Huynh, aged 33 and mother of a young child, was the
first female soldier killed since the French operation began in the Sahel
Risser was 24. Both were members of a regiment
specialising in intelligence work.
“Their vehicle hit an improvised explosive
device during an intelligence mission,” the French presidency said of
Another soldier was wounded in the blast, but the
injuries were not life-threatening, it added.
‘Battle against terrorism’
France’s Barkhane force numbers 5 100 troops spread
across the arid Sahel and has been fighting jihadist groups alongside soldiers
from Mauritania, Chad, Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger, who together make up the
G5 Sahel group.
But lack of equipment, funds and training, together
with problems in deployment and coordination on the ground have left the
operation struggling for credibility and still dependent on France, the force’s
major political backer.
Macron affirmed France’s determination to pursue
“the battle against terrorism” after the latest attacks which come as
Paris considers reducing the size of the forces in West Africa and negotiating
with some local groups other than Al-Qaeda and the so-called Islamic State
The Al-Qaeda-linked Group to Support Islam and
Muslims (GSIM) claimed responsibility for Monday’s attack that killed three
French soldiers in the centre of the poor Sahel state.
Those deaths were also due to an army vehicle
hitting an explosive device.
The group, the main jihadist alliance in the Sahel,
cited a string of reasons for the attack, including the continuing French
military presence in the region, cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed published by
a French newspaper and Macron’s defence of them in the name of freedom of
Mali’s governing military council overthrew
president Ibrahim Boubacar Keita in August 2020, after weeks of protests
sparked partly by his failures to roll back the insurgents.
The junta has not ruled out negotiations with armed
groups in the face of persistent bloodshed in the region.
Four thousand people died in 2019 from jihadist
violence and ethnic conflict stirred by Islamists across Mali, Burkina Faso and
Niger, according to the UN.
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