PARIS (Reuters) – Thirteen French soldiers fighting jihadists in Mali were killed in an accident between two helicopters, the French presidency said on Tuesday, the single biggest loss of French troops in combat in the region since intervening there in 2013.
France has more than 4,500 troops countering Islamist insurgencies in the Sahel region, where violence by militants linked to al Qaeda and Islamic State in the sparely-populated area has proliferated in recent years.
“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 from the president’s office said.
The militants use central and northern Mali as a launch pad for attacks across the largely desert region.
Reporting by Sudip Kar-Gupta; Writing by Richard Lough; Editing by Christian Lowe