The mid-air helicopter collision in Mali on Monday resulted in the death of 13 French soldiers. Paris has about 4,500 troops in the region as part of its Barkhane operation, Al Jazeera reports.
Two helicopters collided in Mali, and death of 13 soldiers became the most tragic incident since 2013 when the European country’s troops intervened the region. Barkhane operation is tasked with building up and training local security forces but also participates in operations against armed groups.
The accident occurred on Monday evening while the military personnel were engaging fighters who have staged a series of deadly attacks in northern Mali in recent weeks, French President Emmanuel Macron’s office said. Six officers and a master corporal were among the victims, Defence Minister Florence Parly said in a separate statement.
“The president announces with deep sadness the death of 13 French troops in Mali on the evening of Nov. 25, in an accident between their two helicopters during a combat mission against jihadists,” the statement reads.
After the Monday incident, the number of French soldiers killed in Mali brought to 38. In 2013, the European troops helped drive back armed groups threatening to overrun the African country.
Among the powers who provide funding and troops to a regional force are Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, Chad and Mauritania to combat armed groups, but the so-called G5 force has been hobbled by delays in disbursing the money and poor coordination.
However, the former French colony Mali has sustained a wave of attacks on army outposts and other targets, with more than 50 killed over just a few days in early November.