President Emmanuel Macron delivered a solemn tribute on Wednesday to French soldier Maxime Blasco, who was killed in action fighting Islamist insurgents in Mali.
Blasco, who had recently been decorated for bravery, was part of a French unit deployed in a wooded area near Mali’s border with Burkina Faso.
He is the 52nd French soldier to have died in the Sahel region since Paris deployed an anti-terrorist force in 2013 to push back militant Islamist groups that had taken over cities and towns in northern Mali.
French forces said earlier this month that they had killed the leader of the Islamic State of West Africa affiliate in a drone strike in northern Mali.
Wednesday’s national tribute at Les Invalides in Paris comes a day after French lawmakers held a minute of silence to honor the fallen soldier.
Macron announced in June that France was reducing its presence in the Sahel region, where some 5,000 French troops are currently deployed.
The announcement has raised tensions with the ruling military junta in Mali, which is in talks with the controversial Russian security firm Wagner about the deployment of Russian mercenaries to the restless country.
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