Three French soldiers were killed after their armored vehicle hit an IED during counterterrorist operations in the Hombori area of Mali’s central Mopti province.
The soldiers on a convoy escort mission between the towns of Hombori and Gossi, near the border with Niger and Burkina Faso, when their vehicle was struck by the explosive device. They were participating in Operation Barkhane that has been fighting an Islamic insurgency in the Sahel region since 2013.
The three soldiers were identified as BCH Tanerii Mauri, 1CL Dorian Issakhanian, and 1CL Quentin Pauchet, in a Twitter post by the Army’s Chief of Staff.
A statement released from the French Defense Ministry said that emergency medical treatment couldn’t save the troops. “Despite the immediate intervention of the medical team present in the convoy and the care provided, the three soldiers could not be revived.” The French launched a quick reaction force of air and ground troops to cover the withdrawal of the wounded troops.
“The soldiers died while engaging in an area where terrorist groups attack civilian populations and threaten regional stability as well as our own security,” French Defense Minister Florence Parly said.
A released statement from the office of President Emmanuel Macron paid tribute to the fallen soldiers: “[France] salutes the memory of these soldiers with the greatest respect.” The statement further emphasized “France’s determination to continue the fight against terrorism.”
The death of these three French troops brings the total of troops killed during France’s intervention in the Sahel to 47.
In 2012 Taureg separatists began a revolt against the Malian government. A year later, France’s sent 4,000 troops in support of its former colony. It initially pushed the rebel forces deep into the far reaches of the country. But then, the insurgency was hijacked by Islamic jihadists from al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS) and regrouped.
In response, the French increased their strength by an additional 1,100 troops. They also created Special Operations Task Force – Takuba, a European Union SOF coalition whose mission is to advise, assist and accompany Malian Armed Forces, in coordination with G5-Sahel partners (Chad, Niger, Burkina Faso, and Mauritania). As part of Takuba, a number of European countries have agreed to send troops and equipment to Mali.
In targeting the Islamic jihadists, French and Malian troops have launched several different operations to restore government control of the country’s outlying areas. They launched their third joint operation in mid-November to clear the northern region of Gossi.
In November, French forces targeted and killed the al-Qaeda commander in North Africa, Bah ag Moussa.
Many in France, however, are growing increasingly impatient with what is being characterized as a “dead-end war” in Mali.