French soldier killed in Iraq died in four-hour gun battle with ISIS

Nicolas Mazier is the country's second serviceman to die in Iraq in the past week

A French soldier engaged in the "Operation Chammal", the French military operation within "Operation Inherent Resolve", the international coalition against the Islamic State (IS) group, stands guard in front of a wheeled 155 mm gun-howitzer CAESAR system (trucks equipped with an artillery system), on February 9, 2019, near Al-Qaim, a few kilometres away from the last scrap of territory held by IS in eastern Syria. The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces said on February 9, 2019 it had begun the "final battle" to oust the Islamic State group from the last scrap of territory it holds in eastern Syria. / AFP / Daphné BENOIT
Powered by automated translation

A French soldier was killed in Iraq in a four-hour firefight during a raid on an ISIS hideout, security sources told Reuters on Tuesday.

The French government confirmed the death, which it said occurred about 100 kilometres north of Baghdad. The soldier was named as Nicolas Mazier.

France's Defence Ministry said in a statement that “a group of entrenched terrorists” had violently attacked Iraqi forces.

“French soldiers immediately retaliated to support their partner, inflicting serious losses to the enemy,” read the statement.

Four other unnamed French soldiers were wounded and are currently being cared for at the US military hospital in the Iraqi capital, said the ministry.

The French and Iraqi forces landed by helicopter in the area of Al Eth after an Iraqi air strike on the militants' position but they came under intense attack, two Iraqi security sources told Reuters.

“It was clearly an ambush by terrorists,” one security source said. The battle lasted for more than four hours.

Iraq declared final victory over ISIS in December 2017 but the group still operates in isolated pockets of northern and western Iraq, carrying out ambushes, assassinations and bombings across the country.

The hardline group has resorted to guerrilla tactics since it abandoned its goal of holding territory and creating a self-sufficient, self-declared caliphate straddling Iraq and Syria.

“The nation mourns again today one of its sons,” said Defence Minister Sebastien Lecornu.

“Faced with terrorism, France will not back down.”

Mr Mazier was a member of Air Parachute Command No 10 and had been sent to Iraq as part of France's so-called Operation Chammal.

He contributed to the training and support of the Iraqi army in fighting terrorist groups, according to the ministry.

The soldier “died for France”, Chief of Defence Thierry Burkhard said on social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter.

Mr Mazier's death comes a week after the death of another soldier, French military trainer Nicolas Latourte, during a joint military exercise with Kurdish forces, French radio station RTL reported.

A few days before, a third soldier, Sgt Baptiste Gauchot, was killed in a car accident in Erbil.

About 600 French soldiers are deployed in Iraq, Syria, Jordan and the UAE as part of Operation Chammal, according to RTL.

The primary aim of Operation Chammal, which was launched in 2014 to fight ISIS, is to train Iraqi forces.

Updated: August 29, 2023, 2:44 PM