PARIS – Two French soldiers were killed Saturday when their vehicle hit an improvised explosive device in northeastern Mali, just days after three others died in similar fashion, the French presidency announced.
President Emmanuel Macron “learned with great sadness” of the deaths of Sergeant Yvonne Huynh and Brigadier Loic Risser in the Menaka region, his office said in a statement.
Huynh, 33, was the first female soldier sent to the Sahel region since the French operation began.
Risser was 24. Both were members of a regiment specializing in intelligence work.
According to the army, the latest deaths brought to 50 the number of French soldiers killed in Mali since France first intervened militarily in January 2013 to help drive back Islamic jihadists who had overrun parts of the West African country.
France’s Barkhane force numbers 5,100 troops spread across the arid Sahel region and has been fighting jihadist groups alongside soldiers from Mauritania, Chad, Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger, which make up the G5 Sahel group.
“Their vehicle hit an improvised explosive device during an intelligence mission,” the French presidency said in a statement Saturday.
Another soldier was injured in the blast, but the person’s live was not in danger, the statement added.
Macron affirmed France’s determination to continue its role in “the battle against terrorism.”
The al-Qaida-linked Group to Support Islam and Muslims (GSIM) has claimed responsibility for the earlier attack that killed three French soldiers in the center of Sahel state. Those deaths were also the result of 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 Muhammad published by a French newspaper and Macron’s defense of them in the name of freedom of expression.
Source: Voice of America