November 26, 2019 - 15:47 AMT
PanARMENIAN.Net - Thirteen French troops were killed in a midair collision between two helicopters in Mali on Monday, November 25 night as they fought Islamic militants in the west African country, The Guardian reports.
The French president, Emmanuel Macron, expressed his “deep sadness” at the crash, stressing the “courage of the French soldiers” in what he called the “hard fight against terrorism” in west Africa’s Sahel region.
Thirty-eight French soldiers have been killed in Mali since France launched a military intervention in 2013. The former colonial power in the region, France sent troops after armed Islamists revolted in northern Mali in 2012 and captured the Mali city of Timbuktu, threatening to advance into the centre of the country. France’s operation in the Sahel is now its largest overseas military mission.
More than 4,500 French troops are countering Islamist insurgencies across theregion, where violence by militants linked to al-Qaida and Islamic State in the sparely populated area has spread in recent years.
The border countries of Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso have become the scene of repeated clashes with jihadist fighters. Groups with links to al-Qaida and Isis based in Mali have been able to strike across the Sahel, destabilising parts of Niger and Burkina Faso.
Thousands of civilians and soldiers have died in the violence. The conflict across the Sahel has enflamed ethnic tensions in the region and thousands have fled their homes.