Emmanuel Macron has paid national tribute to 13 soldiers killed in Mali in a helicopter accident while fighting jihadist insurgents, sparking debate over the country’s mission in western Africa.

A national tribute to the 13 soldiers killed during an operation in Mali on November 25 was held on Monday, December 2, at the “Hotel des Invalides in Paris,” in the presence of the French head of state Emmanuel Macron and his Malian counterpart Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta.

About 2,500 participants, including 1,000 citizens, government officials, politicians, and police officers, were converging to Les Invalides to express their respect and gratitude for the men who “died for France.”

The 13 soldiers, who lost their lives during anti-jihadist combat, on a mission in northeastern Mali, came from various regiments engaged in the Barkhane Operation.

The 5th Regiment Helicopter Combatant of Pau, the 4th Gap Fighter Regiment, the 93rd Varces Mountain Artillery Regiment and the 2nd Foreign Engineer Regiment of Saint Christol.

Two Malian gendarmes were shot dead Sunday in the eastern town of Menaka, a local official said.

Since January 2013, forty-one French soldiers have died as part of the Serval and Barkhane operations against terrorism in the Sahel.
Mali is also paying a heavy tribute to this war against terrorism in the Sahel since the country has lost nearly 150 men in the past two months.

The deaths were the biggest single-day loss for the French military in nearly four decades and prompted soul-searching over France’s 4,500-member Barkhane operation in Mali and four other countries in the Sahel.

By Subiru Madina