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Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2013-02-20

A paratrooper with the French Foreign Legion, Harold Vormezeele (pictured), has been killed in clashes in Mali, French President François Hollande said Tuesday. Twenty Islamists were also killed in an ongoing operation in the Ifoghas mountains.

A French soldier was killed on Tuesday in a clash with jihadists in northern Mali where the French are in the midst of a critical operation, President Francois Hollande announced.

A Defense Ministry statement said that nearly 20 extremists have also been killed in the ongoing fighting.

French Foreign Legionnaire Harold Vormezeele is the second French national killed since France, Mali’s onetime colonial ruler, launched a military intervention on January 11 to oust Islamist militants who had taken over the African country’s vast north. A helicopter pilot was killed on the first day of the mission.

The current operation, in the Ifoghas mountain region where Islamist extremists have taken refuge, is in its “last phase”, the French president said.

“At this moment we have special forces who are in the north of Mali and who are intervening in a zone that is particularly delicate, which is the Ifoghas mountain range, where terror groups are holed up,” he said, speaking on a brief visit to Greece on Tuesday.

“There was a serious clash with several deaths on the side of the terrorists, but also a death on the French side,” Hollande said, adding that the soldier killed came from a parachute regiment.

The French-led operation is aimed at preventing the extremists, who are inspired by sharia law and radical Islam, from taking over all of Mali and destabilising more of the West African region.

(FRANCE 24 with wires)

Date created : 2013-02-19

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