Two French soldiers killed in Mali during counterterrorism mission
Two French soldiers were killed in Mali on Saturday when their vehicle hit a bomb during operations under France’s counterterrorism mission in the region.
France has around 5,100 soldiers deployed in an area spanning thousands of miles from the Atlantic Ocean in the west to Chad in the east. Over the past seven years, the forces have fought branches of Islamic State, al Qaeda and other militant groups, which roam the region’s isolated villages and threaten government forces in Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso and elsewhere.
The soldiers killed on Saturday were conducting operations around Tessalit, a village in northern Mali, as part of Operation Barkhane, the French military campaign against Islamist militants across the Sahel region of Africa. France identified one of the soldiers as Arnaud Volpe and the other only by his initials, S.T., at the request of his family.
Their deaths bring the French death toll in combat operations to 44 soldiers during the current operation and the short operation before it that began in 2013, a French military spokesman said. That includes an accident in November 2019, when two French helicopters collided during a mission in northern Mali, killing 13 soldiers.
The U.S. military has provided key support to the French operation, including drone surveillance and other intelligence collection activities. In 2017, four U.S. soldiers based in Niger were killed by Islamist militants.