13 French soldiers killed in helicopter collision in Mali

French president Emmanuel Macron has said a midair collision between two helicopters killed 13 French soldiers in Mali.

13 French soldiers killed in helicopter collision in Mali

French president Emmanuel Macron has said a midair collision between two helicopters killed 13 French soldiers in Mali. The troops had been fighting against Islamic extremists.

Mr Macron expressed “deep sadness” at the news of the Monday evening crash, which took place during a combat operation.

In a written statement, he expressed his support for the French military and stressed the “courage of the French soldiers” fighting the persistent Islamic threat in the Sahel region.

French defence minister Florence Parly said an investigation has been opened to determine the exact circumstances of the accident.

The operation in West and Central Africa involves 4,500 personnel and is France’s largest overseas military mission.

A new surge in extremist attacks in Mali has killed more than 100 local troops in the past two months, with the so-called Islamic State group (IS) often claiming responsibility.

The United States has said West Africa’s Sahel region is an emerging front in the fight against IS and other extremist groups, including those linked to al-Qaida.

Before his death this year, IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi congratulated “brothers” in Mali and neighbouring Burkina Faso for pledging allegiance.

France’s Barkhane military operation is one of a number of efforts against the growing extremist threat, including a five-nation regional counter-terror force and a UN peacekeeping mission in Mali.

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