Hundreds of Parisians lined the streets of Paris on Monday to pay their respects to 13 French soldiers killed in Mali last week as hearses bearing their flag-draped coffins crossed the heart of the city.
The soldiers died when their helicopters collided in the dark as they hunted Islamist militants. It was the biggest loss of French troops in a single day since an attack in Beirut 36 years ago when 58 soldiers died.
The deaths in Mali highlight the human cost to France of leading a six-year counter-insurgency campaign in West Africa. It has forced France to reassess its strategy, with no prospect in the immediate term of withdrawing its 4,500 troops from the region.
Escorted by police motorcyclists and with soldiers from the military regiments saluting their fallen comrades along the Alexandre III bridge, the 13 hearses solemnly crossed toward the Hotel des Invalides, where President Emmanuel Macron was scheduled to lead tributes at the funeral ceremony.
The bodies of the fallen soldiers returned home on Sunday after a military homage at their base in