Three French soldiers were killed in Mali on Monday after their armored vehicle struck an improvised explosive device (IED) during a counterterrorism operation in the West African country, the French government said.
The soldiers were killed while conducting operations in central Mali as part of the French military’s Operation Barkhane campaign to combat Islamist militants throughout the African Sahel region, French government authorities said. The incident occurred near the small town of Hombori, located in the central Mali province of Mopti, according to the Wall Street Journal.
France’s government identified the slain soldiers as Quentin Pauchet, Tanerii Mauri, and Dorian Issakhanian. All three soldiers belonged to a military regiment based in the town of Thierville-sur-Meuse in eastern France.
Profonde tristesse à l'annonce des décès du BCH Tanerii MAURI, du 1CL Dorian ISSAKHANIAN et du 1CL Quentin PAUCHET, engagés dans l’opération #Barkhane et morts au combat. Pensées émues de toute l’@armeedeterre pour leur famille, leurs proches et leurs camarades du #1RCH. pic.twitter.com/nA7kxCoOZq
— Chef d'état-major de l'armée de Terre (@CEMAT_FR) December 28, 2020
“The deaths brought to 47 the number of French soldiers killed in Mali since France first intervened militarily in January 2013 to help drive back Islamist jihadists who had overrun parts of the West African country,” the Agence France-Presse noted on Monday.
French President Emmanuel Macron said he “salutes the memory of these soldiers with the greatest respect,” according to a statement released by the president’s office on Monday.
Macron further underscored “France’s determination to continue the fight against terrorism,” in his statement.
France’s military currently has 5,100 soldiers deployed across the Sahel, a region spanning thousands of miles from the nation of Chad in the east to the Atlantic Ocean in the west.
French soldiers have fought factions tied to the Islamic State, al-Qaeda, and other Islamic terror groups for the past seven years as they continue to attack isolated communities and government forces in the poor and arid Sahel region. The French soldiers are often joined in their campaign against Islamic terrorism by local forces in Mali, Chad, Mauritania, Burkina Faso, and Niger. The five countries comprise the G5 Sahel Group, an organization designed to coordinate security against terror attacks in West Africa.
The U.S. military has also provided support to the French military operation in the Sahel in recent years, including intelligence-gathering activities such as drone surveillance. Jihadists killed four U.S. soldiers based in Niger in 2017.
French soldiers killed Abdelmalek Droukdel, the leader of al-Qaeda in North Africa, on June 4 in northern Mali near the country’s border with Algeria. As the leader of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, Droukel was responsible for attacks on and abductions of Westerners in the Sahel region, French Minister of Defense Florence Parly said at the time.