Two French soldiers murdered in operation in Mali
Two French soldiers have been murdered as an explosion hit their vehicle in the West African country of Mali, the French presidency stated.
President Emmanuel Macron’s office released an official statement on Saturday, stating that an improvised explosive agent hit the soldiers’ vehicle during an “intelligence” gathering mission in Mali’s eastern Menaka region.
The soldiers were identified as Brigadier Loic Risser, 24, and Sergeant Yvonne Huynh, 33, both members of France’s Barkhane military operations in Mali.
Huynh was the first woman soldier who was sent to the Sahel region since the French operation began. A third military man sustained several non-life-threatening injuries in the bombing attack.
The attack came just less than one week after three French soldiers were killed in Mali also by an improvised explosive agent in the southern region of Hombori.
Macron’s office paid respect to the two military personnel killed.
“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,” said the statement by Macron's office.
The presidency reaffirmed France’s dedication to remain in Africa for what it described as “the battle against terrorism.”
Huynh and Risser’s deaths brought the total number of French soldiers killed in the West African nation to 50.
Several militant factions and allied criminal gangs have gotten back together and set up operations in parts of Mali, turning the country into a launchpad for many attacks across the Sahel.
Al Qaeda’s North Africa subsequently claimed responsibility for the Saturday attack, referring to the presence of French military forces in the region as the motive.
France, which is a former colonial power, is still trying to maintain power with its noticeable military presence in Africa. It has thousands of soldiers spread in bases all across the arid Sahel region of West Africa below the Sahara, purportedly waging “counter-insurgency” operations.
Violence, nevertheless, has steadily worsened in the area with militants — linked to al-Qaeda and ISIS — using northern Mali to launch attacks on neighboring countries.
The French government has previously been accused of supplying arms and ammunition to the terrorist group Boko Haram, which is mainly responsible for the lack of security in parts of Africa, especially Northern Nigeria.