Mali: Second French soldier killed in three days in clashes with Islamist extremists

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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - The second French soldier killed by Islamist extremists in Mali in three days has been identified as a 21-year-old member of the French Foreign Legion.

The Elysee Palace has said Legionnaire Kevin Clement was killed in a combat operation against armed groups in Mali’s Menaka region.

The area lies in the so-called three borders region. The zone, which lies across the porous frontiers of Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso, has become a dangerous hotspot for attacks on French-led forces.

Following the deaths of Mr Clement and Dmytro Martynyouk, who died on Friday in a military hospital outside Paris from wounds sustained in Mali, the number of French dead in the country since 2013 has increased to 43.

According to France’s Chief of Defence Staff, Mr Clement was critically injured during a close range firefight with “armed terrorist groups”. He was evacuated by helicopter to Gao in northern Mali where his death was recorded.

French President Emmanuel Macron has led tributes to the 21-year-old saying he had “deep respect” for the soldier’s sacrifice.

“I would like to once again express his full confidence in the French soldiers deployed in the Sahel" as well as" France's support for the G5 Sahel countries," Mr Macron added.

“This heavy price paid by the Foreign Legion does not undermine its determination or its effectiveness,” French Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly said. "Alongside their brothers in arms in France, Europe and the Sahel, the fight against terrorism continues," she added offering condolences to Mr Clement’s family and loved ones.

Troops from the French Foreign Legion who are among the 5,100 soldiers in the anti-insurgent Barkhane operation that began in 2014.

French troops carry weapons at the 101 military airbase near Bamako before their deployment to the north of Mali. France is using both air and ground power in the joint offensive with Malian soldiers AFP

The recent deaths in Mali have highlighted warnings from experts that military action in the Sahel maybe creating greater instability in the region just at the point where European nations in particular are increasing their presence in the region.

A constellation of European nations have committed themselves to fighting the Islamist insurgency that stretches across the porous borders of the Saharan nations.

Britain, the Czech Republic, Estonia and France have pledged over 800 troops to the newly formed Operation Takuba which will operate within the region alongside Operation Barkhane.

The missions support the G5 Sahel nations of Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger.

At the end of April, European Council President Charles Michel held a video conference with the leaders of the five nations. The countries had been scheduled to hold a summit with the EU on the regional threat posed by cross-border terrorism. However, this had to be cancelled because of the coronavirus outbreak.

In a statement the European Union said it was “committed to working alongside” the G5S to “address the challenges facing the region”.

Updated: May 5, 2020 02:13 PM

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