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France honours soldiers who died in helicopter collision in Mali

They were fighting militants affiliated with the so-called Islamic State group.

Coffins of 13 French soldiers killed in Mali (Rafael Yaghobzadeh/AP)
Coffins of 13 French soldiers killed in Mali (Rafael Yaghobzadeh/AP)

By Associated Press Reporter

France has honoured 13 soldiers killed when their helicopters collided over Mali while on a mission fighting extremists affiliated with the so-called Islamic State group.

A few thousand people, veterans, uniformed military units and ordinary residents, lined the Alexander II Bridge and the esplanade leading toward the gold-domed Invalides monument in Paris on Monday to pay their respects, as 13 hearses drove slowly past.

French President Emmanuel Macron and Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita presided over the funeral ceremony at the Invalides, a former military hospital that houses Napoleon’s tomb.

The 13 coffins, draped in the French tricolour, arrived in France over the weekend.

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French President Emmanuel Macron bows before a coffin (Thibault Camus/AP)

The crash was France’s highest military death toll since 1983.

The French military says it was the result of complex coordination during a combat operation and has dismissed a claim of responsibility by an IS-linked group.

The flight recorders were recovered and an investigation has begun.

The deaths draw new attention to a worrying front in the global fight against extremism, one in which France and local countries have pleaded for more support.

In a surge of violence this month, attackers often linked to IS have killed scores of troops in West Africa’s arid Sahel region.

PA

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