Dec. 22 (UPI) — President Emmanuel Macron announced Saturday that French forces had killed 33 militants in Mali.
Macron made the announcement on a visit to Ivory Coast, where he was visiting troops for a Christmas celebration. He said France would continue to fight “jihadists” in the region, where thousands of French troops have been deployed since 2013.
The announcement comes less than a month after 13 French troops were killed in a helicopter collision while fighting jihadists in Northern Mali.
The incident prompted Macron to tweet that the fallen were “heroes” with “only one goal: to protect us.”
“I bow to the pain of their loved ones and comrades,” Macron wrote.
It was the largest single-day loss of life for the French military since the 1980s.
About 4,500 French troops are stationed in west and central Africa — regions previously under colonial rule — as part of Operation Barkhane, an anti-insurgency deployment that began in 2014.
France intervened in Mali in 2013 after jihadist insurgents overran the northern part of the country.
Mali’s military has recaptured the territory but militants have regrouped and pushed into its central region.