French soldier killed in clash between militants in Mali


PARIS, September 24 (Reuters) – A French soldier was killed on Friday morning in a clash with an armed group in Mali, French officials said.

More than 50 French soldiers have died in the region since Paris deployed an anti-terrorism force in 2013 to push back the militant Islamist groups that had taken over towns and villages in northern Mali.

According to a statement from the French Ministry of Defense, the killed soldier, Maxime Blasco, was part of a French unit deployed in a wooded area near the border between Mali and Burkina Faso.

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

Armed militants engaged the unit at close range and Blasco was shot by a sniper. The soldier quickly died of his injuries. The gunman who shot Blasco was killed, the ministry said.

Earlier this month, French forces said they killed the head of ISIS’s West African branch in a drone strike in northern Mali. Read more

Reporting by Elizabeth Pineau; Written by Christian Lowe; Editing by Daniel Wallis

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