French soldier dies in an extremist attack in northern Mali

PARIS (AP) — A French soldier has been killed in an attack in northern Mali after a mine exploded as his armored vehicle passed by during a supply mission, French officials said Saturday.

The French Defense Ministry said the attack took place Friday afternoon northeast of the Malian town of Kidal and that Fabien Jacq, a 28-year-old staff sergeant with the French Barkhane force in the country, died overnight. The mine hit two French armored vehicles, wounding another French soldier.

The SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors jihadist publications, said the Mali-based Ansar Dine extremist group claimed responsibility for the attack on Twitter and on Telegram, an encrypted messaging app popular among extremist groups.

French President Francois Hollande paid tribute to Jacq’s “sacrifice,” saying he was “killed while carrying out his mission for defending our country and protecting our citizens.” He said that French forces in the Barkhane military operation are helping the Malian army and the U.N. mission “wipe out armed terrorist groups” in Africa’s Sahel region.

France deployed a contingent only in Mali, a former French colony, to fight Islamist groups there in early 2013. The mission has since been replaced by a broader 3,500-to-4,000-troop French operation called Barkhane, covering Mali, Chad, Burkina Faso, Niger and Mauritania, since summer 2014.

Colonel Patrik Steiger, a spokesman for the French army in Paris, told The Associated Press that Jacq is the 18th French soldier killed in action in Mali during these operations.

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