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French soldier killed in Mali ‘accident’, defense minister says


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

The soldier, identified as non-commissioned officer Adrien Quélin, “died [on Tuesday] following an accident that occured during a maintenace operation in Timbuktu “, Parly wrote on Twitter.

The government spokesperson, Gabriel Attal, told French TV an investigation was under way.

A total of 53 French soldiers have died in the restive Sahel region since Paris deployed a counter-terrorism force in 2013 to drive back Islamist militant groups that 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 neighboring countries.

France has begun re-organizing 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.