France honours soldier killed in anti-terror operation in Mali

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President Emmanuel Macron led a solemn tribute on Wednesday to French soldier Maxime Blasco, who was killed in action battling Islamist insurgents in Mali.

Blasco, who had recently been decorated for his bravery, was part of a French unit deployed to a forested area near Mali’s border with Burkina Faso.

He is the 52nd French soldier to have died in the Sahel region since Paris deployed a counterterrorism force in 2013 to drive back Islamist militant groups that had seized cities and towns in northern Mali.

French forces earlier this month said they had killed the leader of the West African affiliate of Islamic State in a drone strike in northern Mali.

Wednesday's national tribute at the Invalides in Paris comes a day after French lawmakers held a minute of silence to honour the fallen soldier.

Macron announced in June that France was reducing its presence in the Sahel region, where some 5,000 French troops are currently deployed.

The announcement has heightened tensions with the military junta in power in Mali, which is in talks with the controversial Russian security company Wagner over the deployment of Russian mercenaries in the restive country.

(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS)

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