Paris (AFP) – Three French peacekeeping soldiers died after their armoured car ran over a landmine in Mali, the French presidency said Wednesday.
One soldier was killed immediately in the blast on Tuesday and President Francois Hollande learned “with great sadness” that two more soldiers had died in the west African country, a statement said.
The car was leading a convoy of around 60 vehicles travelling to the northern desert town of Tessalit when it hit the mine, according to the French defence ministry.
The troops were part of Operation Barkhane, under which France has some 3,500 soldiers deployed across five countries in the Sahel region, south of the Sahara desert, to combat the jihadist insurgency raging there.
The latest deaths bring to seven the number of French soldiers killed in combat in the operation, according to defence ministry figures.
Ten French soldiers were killed in an earlier military intervention launched in January 2013 to oust Islamist rebels who had taken over vast stretches of northern Mali in the chaos following a coup.
Countries across west Africa are scrambling to tighten security following a string of attacks against hotels and restaurants popular with foreigners that have highlighted the growing reach of jihadist groups in the region.