French soldier killed 'by accident' in northern Mali, says defence minister

France: A French soldier has died during a maintenance operation in northern Mali, Defence Minister Florence Parly said on Wednesday. Now it brings  France’s death toll since the start of anti-jihadist operations in the region to 53.

The military official Gabriel Attal, said in a statement the serviceman died after the truck cabin fell while he was working on the vehicle's engine. It also said it was investigating the precise causes of the accident. The soldier, aged 29, was a mechanic specialist for the army. A French serviceman was killed last month in a clash with an armed militant group in Mali.

A total of 53 French soldiers have died in the region since Paris deployed a counterterrorism force in 2013 to drive back Islamist militant groups that had seized cities and towns in northern Mali. A poor and landlocked nation, Mali continues to battle jihadist attacks and intercommunal violence, which often spill over to neighbouring countries. France has commenced re-organising its forces in the region this year, including by pulling out of its northernmost bases in Mali at Kidal, Timbuktu and Tessalit.

Total French troops in the region are to be cut from 5,000 today to between 2,500 and 3,000 by 2023.


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