A French soldier involved in anti-Islamist operations in Mali has been killed by a landmine. The sergeant of a Special Forces parachute commando group and two of his comrades were severely injured as their vehicle was hit by an explosion in the north of the country on 13 October, France's presidential office said.
The statement said the mine that caused the blast was planted by "terrorist groups". The three soldiers were airlifted to an army hospital outside Paris, where the sergeant died of his wounds overnight on 26 November, after a six week fight for his life. The sergeant's death comes days after Al-Qaeda linked militants stormed the foreigner-favourite Radisson Blu hotel in Bamako killing 19 people.
The Élysée Palace said President Hollande was greatly saddened by the news: "He expresses his deep respect for the sacrifice of this non-commissioned officer," a statement from the presidential palace read. "The head of state sends its deepest condolences to his family, relatives and brothers in arms, and assures them of the nation's full solidarity in these painful circumstances."
France deployed troops to Mali in 2013 after an ethnic Taureg rebellion in the north was hijacked by the al-Qaeda affiliates that seized large swathes of land and threatened the capital, Bamako.
France's military intervention and UN peacekeeping mission have since returned control of the region to the Malian government, but Islamist cells continue to operate across the vast desert areas in the north, often crossing in and out the porous borders of neighbouring countries.