French soldier killed in Mali militant clash

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FILE PHOTO: A French soldier leaves with his backpack in Gao, Mali, August 1, 2019. Picture taken August 1, 2019. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier/File Photo
FILE PHOTO: French soldiers of the “Belleface” Desert Tactical Group (GTD) set up camp for the night in the Gourma region during Operation Barkhane in Ndaki, Mali, July 27, 2019. Picture was taken July 27, 2019. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier/File Photo

A French serviceman was killed early on Friday in a clash with an armed militant group in Mali, French officials said.

More than 50 French soldiers have died in the region since Paris deployed a counterterrorism force in 2013 to drive back Islamist militant groups that had seized cities and towns in northern Mali.

According to a statement from the French defense ministry, the soldier who was killed, Maxime Blasco, was part of a French unit deployed to a forested area near Mali’s border with Burkina Faso.

Their mission was to track down a suspected militant group that had earlier been spotted by a drone. The unit was supported by two attack helicopters and a surveillance drone, according to the statement.

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