The jihadist group Islamic State (IS) said Thursday it caused the collision between two French helicopters in which 13 soldiers were killed in Mali, forcing one of the aircraft to retreat after an ambush.
The two French military helicopters collided on Monday during a night-fighting operation against jihadists in southern Mali at war.
According to the French army, they had been called in support of paratroopers commandos engaged against enemies, in a sector where the French anti-jihad force Barkhane regularly conducts operations against armed groups, including the group Islamic State in the Great Sahara (EIGS).
The two black boxes of the helicopters were recovered for analysis.
In a statement posted on its usual Telegram channels, the EI group claimed to have ambushed a convoy of French soldiers in the Menaka area, and clashes erupted.
A helicopter carrying reinforcements to help the ground troops attempted to land at the ambush site, but « caliphate soldiers fired at the aircraft, forcing it to retreat and finally entered in collision with another helicopter causing the death of 13 soldiers, « the statement said.
These men, all officers and non-commissioned officers, were serving with the 5th Combat Helicopter Regiment (5th RHC), 4th Regiment of Hunters (4th RCH), 93rd Mountain Artillery Regiment (93rd RMA), and the Legion foreign.
Horizon more obscured, despite Barkhane
French Minister of the Armed Forces Florence Parly bowed Wednesday in Mali before the coffins of the 13 soldiers.
A national tribute ceremony, presided over by President Emmanuel Macron, will take place Monday at Les Invalides, a military symbol in Paris, which since the 17th century has been home to veterans and war wounded and is home to the tomb of Napoleon I.
The French army has suffered with this tragedy one of its greatest losses since the attack against the French headquarters Drakkar in Beirut in 1983, which had killed 58 people.
The French operation Barkhane mobilizes 4,500 men in the Sahelo-Saharan band. But after six years of uninterrupted presence, the horizon is more and more obscured.
Jihadist violence persists in northern Mali and has spread to the center of the country as well as neighboring Burkina Faso and Niger. The losses are more and more heavy for the local armies, overwhelmed.