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Iran Press TV

Two French soldiers killed during operation in Mali

Iran Press TV

Sunday, 03 January 2021 5:57 AM

Two French soldiers have been killed as an explosion hit their armored vehicle in the West African country of Mali, the French presidency said.

President Emmanuel Macron's office released a statement on Saturday, saying that an improvised explosive device hit the soldiers' vehicle during an "intelligence" gathering mission in Mali's eastern Menaka region.

The soldiers have been identified as Brigadier Loic Risser, 24, and Sergeant Yvonne Huynh, 33, members of France's Barkhane military operations in Mali.

Huynh was the first woman soldier sent to the Sahel region since the French operation began. A third military man sustained non-life-threatening injuries in the bombing incident.

The attack came less than a week after three French soldiers were killed in Mali also by an improvised explosive device in the southern region of Hombori.

Macron's office paid homage to the two slain military personnel.

"The President of the Republic pays homage to the memory of these soldiers, who died for France in the performance of their duty. He shares the pain of their families, loved ones and brothers in arms and assures them of the gratitude and solidarity of the Nation," read the statement by Macron's office.

The presidency reaffirmed France's commitment to remain in Africa for what it called "the battle against terrorism."

Huynh and Risser's deaths brought the number of French soldiers killed in the West African nation to fifty.

Mali has become increasingly engulfed in violence since a Tuareg uprising in 2012 was hijacked by extremist militants, prompting France to intervene to push them back the following year.

Several militant factions and allied criminal gangs have regrouped and set up operations in parts of Mali, turning the country into a launchpad for attacks across the Sahel.

Al Qaeda's North Africa claimed responsibility for the Saturday attack, citing the presence of French military forces in the region as the motive.

France, a former colonial power, is still trying to maintain power with its significant military presence in Africa. It has thousands of soldiers spread in bases across the arid Sahel region of West Africa below the Sahara, purportedly waging "counter-insurgency" operations.

Violence, however, has steadily worsened in the region with militants — linked to al-Qaeda and Daesh — using northern Mali to launch attacks on neighboring countries.

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