Two French soldiers from Operation Barkhane have been killed by a homemade bomb in northern Mali. A third was seriously injured.
Operation Barkhane is an ongoing anti-insurgent operation, in the Sahel region of Africa, targeting Islamic extremists. It’s led by the French military in co-operation with the five countries of that region: Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger.
A statement from the French Presidency announced "the death of two French soldiers, Brigadier-Chief First Class ST and Hussar Parachutist First Class Arnaud Volpe, after the destruction of their armoured vehicle by an improvised explosive device (... ) during an operation in the region of Tessalit".
The political and security situation remains complicated in the country following last month’s coup.
The coup was led by senior members of the military against Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, who had been in power for seven years. The move followed a long period of chronic instability, allegations of corruption and ethnic violence.
Keita was sent late on Saturday to the United Arab Emirates for medical treatment, according to a diplomatic source. The 75-year-old's health has been a concern since he was hospitalised following his detention for 10 days by the military junta.
He left Mali with his wife, Aminata Maiga Keita, an attache, two doctors and four security agents, said the source who insisted on remaining anonymous. The plane was dispatched by the UAE following a request from Malian authorities, so he can be treated at a military hospital in Abu Dhabi.
Keita had been moved back to his own residence earlier this week after a stay in a private clinic under the tight security of the junta.
The junta has promised a transition to civilian rule and began talks with opposition groups on Saturday to this end.
The move follows criticism from former colonial power France as well as Mali’s neighbours, who have expressed unease and a desire for a swift transfer of power.