Al Qaeda-linked jihadist group claims deaths of French soldiers in Mali

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The Al-Qaeda-linked Group to Support Islam and Muslims (GSIM) has claimed responsibility for an attack that killed three French soldiers in Mali, a statement released by its propaganda platform Al-Zallaqa said.

The three died on Monday when their armoured vehicle struck an explosive device in the centre of the poor Sahel state.

The group, the main jihadist alliance in the Sahel, cited a string of reasons for the attack including the continuing French military presence in the region, cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed published by a French newspaper and French President Emmanuel Macron's defence of them in the name of freedom of expression.

The deaths brought to 47 the number of French soldiers killed in Mali since France first intervened militarily in January 2013 to help drive back Islamist jihadists who had overrun parts of the west African country.

France's Barkhane force numbers 5,100 troops spread across the arid Sahel region and has been fighting jihadist groups alongside soldiers from Mauritania, Chad, Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger, who together make up the G5 Sahel group.

The GSIM statement was authenticated by SITE Intelligence, which monitors jihadist activities worldwide.