Two French soldiers died in an operation in Mali on Saturday and a third was injured when an improvised explosive device hit their armoured vehicle, France said.
The killed soldiers, Sergeant Yvonne Huynh and Brigadier Loic Risser, were on a reconnaissance and intelligence-gathering mission in the eastern region Menaka when the blast occurred, the joint chiefs of staff said.
Huynh, 33, was the first female soldier sent to the Sahel region since the French operation began.
Risser was 24 and both were members of a regiment specialising in intelligence.
In a statement issued from the Elysee Palace, French President Emmanuel Macron praised the two soldiers and said the mission would continue.
“The President of the Republic learnt with great sadness of the death in Mali … of two soldiers of the 2nd Hussar Regiment of Haguenau, Sergeant Yvonne Huynh and Brigadier Loic Risser,” the statement said.
“Their vehicle was the object of an improvised explosive device attack during an intelligence mission in the Menaka region.
“He shares the pain of their families, their relatives and their brothers in arms and assures them of the gratitude and solidarity of the nation.
“The president of the republic reaffirms France’s determination in its fight against terrorism. He salutes the courage of our soldiers and assures them of his confidence and support in the face of this new ordeal.”
French authorities said the injured soldier’s life was not in danger.
Less than a week ago, three French soldiers were killed in Mali, also by an improvised explosive device, during a mission in the southern region Hombori.
Al Qaeda’s North Africa wing said it was responsible for that attack, the monitoring organisation Site Intel reported.
The soldiers in both cases were part of France’s Barkhane military operations in Mali against Islamist extremists.
According to the army, the latest deaths bring to 50 the number of French soldiers killed in Mali since France first intervened militarily in January 2013.