French foreign legionnaires slain in Mali honoured in deserted Paris

Paris (AFP) –


The coffins of two members of France's fabled foreign legion killed in its anti-jihadist operations in west Africa were on Thursday given a guard of honour in a Paris, a city otherwise deserted by the coronavirus lockdown.

Soldiers wearing face masks stood to pay their respects as the convoy with the hearses transporting the bodies of the two soldiers passed through the city devoid of its usual crowds.

As is traditional, they crossed the Alexander III bridge across the Seine in the centre of Paris prior to a commemoration ceremony at the Invalides memorial complex.

The two French legionnaires died in separate incidents in Mali. Kevin Clement, 21, was killed by enemy fire in an anti-jihadist operation. Brigadier Dmytro Martynyouk, who reports said was born in Ukraine, died from wounds caused by an IED explosion in April.

Forty-three French soldiers have been killed in the Sahel region since Paris deployed troops in 2013 in its former colony to help local forces battling jihadist insurgents.

The numbers of France's Barkhane force have been increased from 4,500 to 5,100 soldiers, in a move Paris hopes will give them the upper hand on the ground where jihadists have upped attacks in the last months.