Two French soldiers die in an operation in eastern Mali

The Barkhane mission involves more than 4,000 French soldiers in five Sahelian states
Atalayar_SoldadosFranceses Sahel

AFP/ MICHELE CATTANI  -   French Army soldiers in the Sahel 

Two French soldiers from the anti-terrorist force deployed in the Sahel were killed this Saturday during a mission to eastern Mali when their vehicle was hit by an explosion of a device, and a third was injured.

In a statement from the Elysée Palace, the French president, Emmanuel Macron, expressed his "great sadness" at the death of Sergeant Yvonne Huynh, 33, and Brigadier Loïc Risser, 24, after their armoured vehicle stepped on a mine laid in its path during an inspection patrol north of the city of Ménaka. The third soldier travelling with them was wounded and his life is not to be feared.

Last Monday another three French soldiers had also died in Mali in similar circumstances when the armoured vehicle in which they were travelling was hit by another explosive device in the vicinity of Hombori, also in the region known as the three-frontier region (with Burkina Faso and Niger).

In total, France has had 51 casualties among its forces in the Sahel since the then president, François Hollande, launched an operation at the beginning of 2013 to prevent the terrorist groups that had become strong in several regions of Mali from gaining total control of the country.

At present, as part of the Barkhane mission, over 4,000 French soldiers are stationed in five Sahel states (Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Chad and Burkina Faso) with the stated aim of providing support to the local armies and preventing terrorist sanctuaries from being established there.

Following the death of these last two soldiers on Saturday, Macron reaffirmed "France's determination in its fight against terrorism" and assured the forces stationed in that area "of its confidence and support in the face of this new trial".

The defence ministry, for its part, stressed the message that the French forces are acting with those of the other Sahel countries, but also with those of other European countries and the United States in their "fierce fight against terrorist groups".

The aim is for the Sahel states to be able to "ensure the protection of their citizens and their territory".