French defence minister visits Mali as France mourns soldiers killed in helicopter crash
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Frances Defence Minister Florence Parly arrived in northern Mali on Wednesday, two days after a helicopter collision killed 13 French soldiers fighting jihadist militants linked to the Islamic State group.
Mondays crash on a moonless night led to the heaviest single loss for the French military in nearly four decades.
An investigation has begun into the cause. The military has said the helicopters were flying very low while supporting French commandos on the ground near the border with Niger.
Frances operation in West and Central Africa is its largest overseas military mission and involves 4,500 personnel. The deaths draw new attention to a worrying front in the global fight against extremism, one in which France and local countries have pleaded for more support.
French government spokeswoman Sibeth Ndiaye said French President Emmanuel Macron addressed the military operation during Wednesdays weekly cabinet meeting.
Macron stressed that it aims at “enhancing our own security” and providing “important support” to African countries, Ndiaye said.
A national tribute ceremony will take place next Monday at the Invalides monument in Paris, where France traditionally pays tribute to fallen soldiers and national heroes.
'We will never achieve a definitive victory'
With the country still reeling from the shock of Monday night's deadly crash, a top general in the French army told a local radio station on Wednesday that France would never secure total victory over Islamist insurgents in West Africa.
General François Lecointre said France's military role in the Sahel region south of the Sahara was "useful, good and necessary", but it was hard to see the moment when the war would finally be won.
"We will never achieve a definitive victory," Lecointre, chief of staff of the armed forces, told France Inter radio.
Most French politicians have praised the countrys military operation in the Sahel as key in the global fight against extremism. But France has also complained to European allies that it is bearing the brunt of a counter-terroriRead More – Source