Two French soldiers killed by explosive device in Mali
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Two French soldiers were killed after their armoured vehicle was hit by an explosive device in Mali, the French president's office said on Wednesday.
"It is with great sorrow that the President of the Republic learned of the death in combat of two soldiers from first regiment of Valencia, killed this morning in Mali in an improvised explosive device attack on their armoured vehicle,” said a statement released by the Élysée presidential office.
France has deployed around 4,000 French troops in the West Africa's Sahel region as part of Operation Barkhane aimed at tackling Islamist militants in the region.
The Sahel region with its huge expanse of remote desert is home to several jihadist groups. The area has seen several armed attacks on targets in neighbouring Burkina Faso and Ivory Coast in recent years.
France began a military intervention in Mali in January 2013 to drive out al Qaeda-linked militants who hijacked a rebellion in 2012 by ethnic Tuaregs and attempted to take control of the central government in Bamako.
EU to double funding for Sahel security force
The French soldiers’ deaths came as the EU is set to double its funding for a joint African military force to fight jihadists in the Sahel region with a 50-million-euro boost, AFP reported Wednesday citing EU sources.
The bloc is expected to announce the new money for the G5 Sahel force, grouping Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger, at talks in Brussels on Friday which will be attended by French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
The move comes as a surge in rebel attacks has underscored the challenge facing the five countries, among the poorest in the world, which are on the frontline of a war against Islamist militants.
Ambassadors from the 28 EU member states gave their approval for the funding on Tuesday, two European diplomats told AFP, adding to the 50 million euros ($62 million) Brussels provided in June to help set up the force.
More than $350 million has already been pledged for the G5 Sahel force but more is needed to help it reach its target of 5,000 properly trained and equipped troops to patrol hotspots and restore authority in lawless areas.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP and REUTERS)