A French soldier has been killed in a mortar attack on France’s main military base in northern Mali, according to the French Presidential office.
Brigadier Alexandre Martin, who had been serving in France’s Barkhane operation in the restive Sahel region, died as the Barkhane military camp in Gao came under attack on Saturday afternoon, President Emmanuel Macron's office said on Sunday in a statement.
Gao in northern Mali is also known as the center of Operation Barkhane, which is led by the French military with the stated aim of pushing back terrorist groups in Africa’s Sahel region.
France has withdrawn from Northern Mali and the historic city of Timbuktu nine years after launching a war without the initial approval of the United Nations or even the French parliament.
A French mission began in Mali in 2013 to allegedly counter militants that Paris claims are linked to the al-Qaeda and Daesh terrorist groups. France, a former colonizer of Africa, also deployed thousands of soldiers to presumably prevent separatist forces from reaching Mali’s capital, Bamako.
The war caused several thousand deaths and more than a million people to flee their homes. There have been two military coups in little over a year, amid growing demonstrations against France’s military presence.
France has been one of the world’s colonizing countries that after many years of slavery still controls countries spread over more than 12 territories and treats their people as second-class citizens.
It has had more than 50 military interventions in Africa since 1960, when many of its former colonies gained nominal independence. Mali remains among the poorest countries in the world, but that’s not due to a lack of resources.
France currently has 5,100 troops in the arid and volatile Sahel region. Under a new plan, they will be reduced to 2,500-3,000 troops. Analysts say it is premature to call it the end of the war, but that France is entering into a new phase of the war.
France is also worried about the alleged deployment of Russian mercenaries in the country.