A French military doctor was killed in Mali when his armoured vehicle hit an improvised explosive device during an operation against “armed terrorist groups”, the French presidency and army said Tuesday.
France’s army for the past year and a half has carried out military operations against jihadists in northeast Mali and into the border area of neighbouring Burkina Faso.
Captain Marc Laycuras, who belonged to a medical unit from Mans in western France, died in the Gourma region near the Burkina frontier, army spokesman Patrik Steiger told AFP.
He said Laycuras and another wounded soldier “were immediately taken by helicopter” to hospital near Gossi, about 150 kilometres (93 miles) west of Gao where the French Barkhane force is based.
The doctor was gravely wounded and died of his injuries, Steiger said, adding that the other soldier was not in a serious condition.
“No enemy or any particular presence had been detected in the area at the time of the explosion,” he said.
The doctor was the 24th member of the French military to die in Mali since France intervened in 2013 and drove back jihadist groups who had taken control of the north of the country.
President Emmanuel Macron in a statement expressed his “very great sadness” at the news of the doctor’s death.
Macron also reiterated France’s “full support for Mali and the United Nations forces in implementing the peace accord” reached in 2015 with some armed groups.
But jihadist raids remain a persistent threat and the Gourma region is known to be a sanctuary for several armed groups, based in the forests and along the Burkina border.
In the centre of Mali, an ethnic mosaic, attacks have had a bloody impact on groups with a history of rivalry.
Just last month 160 people were massacred, the victims Fulani herders in the village of Ogossagou who were killed by suspected militiamen from the rival Dogon ethnic group.
The violence persists despite the presence of a strong French military contingent, UN peacekeepers, and the creation of a five-nation military force in the Sahel region.