French soldier killed in Iraq-Syria military zone, Élysée Palace says
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A French special forces soldier was killed in combat this morning in the Iraq-Syria region, the French presidency announced on Saturday.
The Élysée Palace said in a statement that President Emmanuel Macron had "learned with great sadness" of the death of a soldier from the 13th regiment of paratroopers who was killed in combat in the Levant.
The French military operation in Iraq and Syria, known as Opération Chammal, is part of the US-led coalition of nations battling the Islamic State group. Military sources told AFP that it was the first French casualty since Chammal was launched in September 2014.
Former military general Dominique Trinquand, who once led the French military mission at the UN, told FRANCE 24 that French forces have been in Iraq "for a while" and in Syria since at least the spring.
The 13th parachute regiment is a French special forces unit that is not officially present in either Syria or Iraq. Trinquand said the details of special forces missions are not made public, which is why the precise location of the soldier's death remains unknown.
“Special forces are there to provide equipment and training for … Iraqi forces and the Kurds” as well as the Kurdish fighters in Syria, he said.
“Sometimes when you are training you are in the combat zone,” he added.
The Élysée's statement went on to say that Macron "salutes the sacrifice" of the soldier, who was killed while pursuing a mission "to defend our country, protect our fellow citizens and win the struggle against barbarism".
The French president also expressed "his confidence and pride in the French soldiers" who courageously battle "terrorist groups from the Levant to the Sahel" in Africa.