French soldier dies in attack on anti-insurgent base in Mali

·1 min read
FILE - French Barkhane force soldiers who wrapped up a four-month tour of duty in the Sahel leave their base in Gao, Mali, June 9, 2021. France said Sunday, Jan. 23, 2022 that one of its soldiers has been killed in an attack on a base in Mali.A French Army statement said the 24-year-old artilleryman, Alexandre Martin, was serving with France’s anti-insurgent force Operation Barkhane. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay, file) (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

PARIS (AP) — A French soldier has been killed in a mortar shelling attack on a base in Mali, the military said Sunday.

The 24-year-old artilleryman, Alexandre Martin, was serving with France’s anti-insurgent force Operation Barkhane, according to a statement from the French army.

Several rounds targeted the military camp in Gao on Saturday, the army statement said. Martin was seriously wounded and later died, it said. The army said nine other soldiers were slightly injured.

It said helicopters were subsequently deployed to “neutralize the terrorists who fired the shots.”

In a statement, French President Emmanuel Macron saluted the soldier's service and reiterated “France's determination to continue the fight against terrorism in the region, alongside its partners.”

French troops have been present in Mali since 2013, when they intervened to force Islamic extremist rebels from power in towns across the country’s north.

Operation Serval was later replaced by Barkhane and was expanded to include other countries in an effort to help stabilize Africa's broader Sahel region.

The French force has been operating in Mali, Chad, Niger, Burkina Faso and Mauritania. France has previously announced plans to reduce the force from 5,000 troops to 2,500-3,000 soldiers over the long term.