A Tiger helicopter and Cougar helicopter collided while providing backup to ground forces who were tracking Islamist militants.
Rabat – Two French military helicopters crashed into each other in Mali Monday evening, November 25, killing 13 soldiers. The helicopters were engaged in an operation against jihadi militants, helping to track a group of militants who were in small trucks and motorcycles.
French President Emmanuel Macron’s office issued a statement, expressing his “deep sadness” about the soldiers who “died for France in the hard fight against terrorism in the Sahel.”
Macron also tweeted his sorrow over the accident.
Treize de nos militaires sont morts hier au Mali. Ils étaient engagés dans une opération de combat contre des terroristes. Ces treize héros n’avaient qu’un seul but : nous protéger. Je m’incline devant la douleur de leurs proches et de leurs camarades.
— Emmanuel Macron (@EmmanuelMacron) November 26, 2019
The French Ministry of Armed Forces expressed its condolences for the loss of the 13 soldiers.
According to French news outlet Le Monde, the helicopters were operating in the Liptako border region, covering parts of Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger.
Troops on the ground were tracking a group of jihadists that they “detected a few hours earlier” according to French General Francois Lecointre, and the helicopters approached as backup assistance.
The two helicopters crashed into each other at 7:40 p.m. One helicopter was a Cougar transport aircraft and the other a Tiger attack helicopter.
France has thousands of troops stationed in the Sahel region as part of its Operation Barkhane.
Morocco has frequently brought up instability in the Sahel region as a matter of international concern. The head of Morocco’s Central Bureau of Judicial Investigation (BCIJ), Abdelhak Khiame, has said that criminals and terrorists consider the Sahel a safe zone. He also said that lack of security cooperation was exacerbating the instability.