Europe

French soldier killed by northern Mali roadside bomb

  • 29 April 2013
  • From the section Europe
French soldiers in action in northern Mali, 17 February 2013
Image caption Six French soldiers have been killed since France intervened in Mali

A French paratrooper has been killed and two others were seriously injured in Mali, French officials say.

The defence ministry said the special forces soldier died in the far north of the West African nation after his vehicle hit a roadside bomb.

Six French soldiers have been killed since France launched an operation in Mali in January to drive Islamist rebels from the northern desert region.

France began withdrawing some of its 4,000 troops earlier this month.

But 1,000 will remain beyond the end of 2013 to pursue al-Qaeda-linked militants while other international forces concentrate on securing the main cities and roads.

Some towns and cities have been recaptured by French soldiers but a number of Islamist fighters are believed to remain in their desert hideouts in the north from where they launch isolated attacks against French and Malian forces.

The UN recently agreed to create a 12,000-strong peacekeeping force for Mali.

It will incorporate 6,000 West African soldiers already in the country.

'Courage'

The French defence ministry said the 32-year-old soldier was killed between Zaouaten and Boughessa near the border with Algeria.

Two more soldiers were seriously injured in the same attack, according to the ministry. A military spokesman said no militants were found in the area.

President Francois Hollande issued a statement extending his condolences to the relatives of the soldier killed and praising what he called the determination and courage of French forces in Mali.

The French intervention in Mali was prompted by Islamist rebels' increasing grip on the north and their advance further south towards the capital, Bamako.

The militants had taken advantage of weak central government after a coup in March 2012 and the inability of Malian forces to secure territory.

Major cities such as Gao, Kidal and Timbuktu fell and a strict form of Islamic law was imposed.

French forces, backed by fighter planes and Malian troops, retook major settlements in the weeks following the French intervention, including Timbuktu at the end of January.