French soldier killed in security operation against jihadists in Mali

FILE PHOTO: French soldiers of the “Belleface” Desert Tactical Group (GTD) set up camp in the Gourma region in Ndaki, Mali. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier/File Photo

A French soldier was killed on Thursday during security operations against Islamist insurgents in Mali, a statement from the French presidency said.

“This soldier … was killed in fighting against armed terrorist groups, when an improvised explosive device was triggered next to his armoured vehicle,” the statement said.

France runs a separate anti-insurgent mission across the Sahel region with a contingent of more than 5,000 troops.

The European power has lost a number of soldiers in its attempt to stabilize Mali and the greater Sahel region and eliminate the threat of jihadists since its intervention nearly seven years ago.

In February 2018, two French soldiers were killed after their armoured vehicle was hit by an explosive device.

In November last year, 13 French soldiers were killed in a helicopter collision during an operation against jihadists near the border with Burkina Faso and Niger. It was the largest single loss of life for the French military in decades.

Islamic extremists took over Mali’s north in 2012. France, Mali’s former colonial ruler, led a 2013 military operation that ousted them from their urban strongholds. Since then, however, the extremists roam through the open, desert areas of northern Mali.

Mali’s military has failed to stem the violence despite support from France and the UN peacekeeping mission.