A soldier serving in France’s Barkhane operation died in a mortar attack on a military camp in Gao, northern Mali.
The French defense ministry said in a statement that the incident occurred on January 22 around 5 p.m. in the desert operational platform (PfOD) in Gao.
Brigadier Alexandre Martin of the 54th Artillery Regiment was seriously injured. He was immediately taken care of by the medical detachment of the Gao platform but succumbed to his injuries. Nine other soldiers were slightly injured, the ministry said.
As per unconfirmed reports, the rounds were launched 5-6km to the northeast in an area known to be used by the Qaeda-linked Group for the Support of Islam and Muslims (GSIM).
President Emmanuel Macron confirmed the determination of France to continue the fight against terrorism in the region.
France has spent around €880 million a year on this mission. More than 4,000 French forces are stationed in the volatile and poverty-wracked Sahel region of West Africa, most of them in Mali.
Paris has already started reducing its military presence in Mali, hoping to halve the contingent by the summer of 2023, and has asked its European Union allies to provide more support. It also said it would keep bases in Gao, Menaka and Gos.
France is also irked by Mali’s alleged hiring of the Wagner Group of mercenaries believed to be close to Russia’s leadership.
The African country’s relations with its neighbors have also nosedived. The 15-country Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) recently imposed tough sanctions on it, a move backed by the U.S., the EU and France.