Thirteen French soldiers were killed in a collision between two helicopters said the French Presidency on Tuesday. The soldiers were fighting Islamic extremists in Mali. The circumstances in which the accident occurred was not clear, the French Armed Force Minister Florence Parly said that the incident happened during the flight.
French Presidency expressed their condolences
The French Presidency expressed "deep sadness" over the loss of the soldiers' lives. This is being seen as the biggest loss of troops since the French intervention in 2013. Prior to this, there was an attack three weeks ago which killed a French soldier patrolling the eastern borders of Mali.
The Defence Ministry said that it was the helicopters 'Tiger' and 'Cougar' that was involved in the collision. The troops were supporting the commandos from the Barkhane force who were engaged with the armed terrorists said the Ministry in a statement.
The militants have been using the largely deserted regions of Northern and Central parts of Mali, to launch attacks. This region is been seen as a place where the proliferation of religious extremism from various groups like al- Qaeda and Islamic State has been happening in recent times.
Northern region of Mali came under Jihadists control
The northern region of Mali came under the control of al-Queda linked Jihadists in 2012 after a rebellion which the Mali soldiers could not control. A campaign was launched in this region by the French military last year. There are more than 4,500 troops stationed in Sahel region in Mali. Apart from the French troops, there are around 15,000 UN Peacekeeping troops in the country.
France, one of the previous colonial powers in the region, intervened six years ago and has kept troops here as a part of Barkhane counter-terrorism operations. Western powers have also provided funding to a regional force made up of soldiers.
Despite other European countries providing logistical support to the operations, France has been experiencing the brunt of the operations on the ground. According to a report by Daily Mail the dead included six officers, six non-commissioned officers, and a master corporal.