Two French Legionnaires have died from wounds sustained while fighting Islamic extremists in Mali.

Brigadier Dymyto Martynyouk was part of a mounted patrol when his armored vehicle struck an improvised explosive device on April 23. His wounds were severe enough and couldn’t be treated in-theater. He was evacuated to France where he, unfortunately, died in the Percy Army Military Training hospital near Paris on May 2.

In the French military rank system, Brigadier is a non-commissioned rank and a rough equivalent of the American rank of Sergeant; it is used in Cavalry and Engineer units.

Brigadier Martynyouk was assigned to the 1st Foreign Cavalry Regiment (1er Régiment Etranger de Cavalerie), having previously served in the 4th Foreign Regiment (4e Régiment étranger). At the time of his death, he was a vehicle leader. He was born in Ukraine.

Legionnaire 1st Class Kévin Clément was killed on May 4 during an engagement with Jihadists in the Menaka region of Mali. He was also assigned to the 1st Foreign Cavalry Regiment. He was born in France.

Brigadier Dymyto Martynyouk.
Legionnaire 1st Class Kévin Clément.

Established in 1831, the French Foreign Legion is enshrouded in a contradictory mist of notoriety and fame. On the one hand, they have been perceived as cruel mercenaries, hire-to-kill brutes, and ex-criminals. On the other hand, they are known for their discipline and bravery. Suffice to say that the modern version of the French Foreign Legion is closer to the second description.

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Gone are the days when criminals would escape authorities by joining the ranks of the Legion. Nowadays, there is a thorough screening process in place to ensure that no serious felons become Legionnaires. French citizens, moreover, are joining the ranks of the unit in larger numbers than the past. The main source of recruits, however, remains foreign nationals who serve a minimum of five years and then become French citizens.

However, that is not to say that the Legion doesn’t have any issues. Far from it. A recent investigation has indicated that dozens of former Legionnaires have become radicalized and pose a threat to their former unit and France.

Since 2012, France has lost 42 warfighters, including Brigadier Martynyouk, in the campaign against Islamic extremism in the Sahel.

France launched Operation Barkhane back in 2012 in a frantic attempt to stop Islamic extremists from taking over Mali. Based in the northern part of the African country, the Jihadists had managed to defeat the Malian military before France intervened and turned the tide. Since then, however, an insurgency has gripped not only the country but the whole of the Sahel region.