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9 Soldiers who died in Mali: what were the circumstances of the accident that claimed the lives of 13 soldiers?

  • by Blog
  • 05-05-2020
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The collision between two helicopters of the French army occurred Monday evening, while the soldiers were engaged in a mission against the jihadists.

Two days after the accident that killed 13 French soldiers in Mali, the time is now for investigation. Wednesday November 27, Colonel Frédéric Barbry, spokesman for the army staff, announced on BFMTV that the black boxes of the two military helicopters involved in the accident had been recovered and were to be analyzed. It is "too early to be able to prejudge the date of these different analyzes", he added, prescribing the need to give specialists time to analyze "all the parameters" of these black boxes, precious to understand what that it happened, Monday evening, in the Malian sky.

However, the Minister of the Armed Forces, Florence Parly, and the Chief of the Defense Staff (CEMA), General François Lecointre, gave some indications allowing to understand the context in which the drama unfolded. "I don't know exactly what happened. But what is clear is that in any event there is an element of risk assumed (...), said the latter on France Inter A military operation, in particular in the Sahel and in the conditions in which we are engaged, it is always an exercise in very high fashion ".

A major operation

It had been three days since this major operation had been launched. Three days that paratrooper commandos of the Barkhane force were hunting down jihadist terrorists between the towns of Gao and Ménaka, in the Eranga valley, south of Indelimane, in Liptako.

The region has been hit hard by terrorism, including in recent days. In this city, 49 Malian soldiers were killed on November 1, during an attack by the Islamic State in the Grand Sahara (EIGS). The next day, in this same area, the 24-year-old French brigadier, Ronan Pointeau, was killed in the explosion of an explosive device in the passage of his armored vehicle. Again, the EISG claimed the installation of this artisanal mine.

A major operation

It had been three days since this major operation had been launched. Three days that paratrooper commandos of the Barkhane force were hunting down jihadist terrorists between the towns of Gao and Ménaka, in the Eranga valley, south of Indelimane, in Liptako.

The region has been hit hard by terrorism, including in recent days. In this city, 49 Malian soldiers were killed on November 1, during an attack by the Islamic State in the Grand Sahara (EIGS). The next day, in this same area, the 24-year-old French brigadier, Ronan Pointeau, was killed in the explosion of an explosive device in the passage of his armored vehicle. Again, the EISG claimed the installation of this artisanal mine.

It is shortly after 5 pm, Monday evening, when the parachute commando groups spot the jihadists. It is an organized group, equipped with a pick-up and several motorcycles. French soldiers engage in ground combat. Night is about to fall on the Sahel desert. A dark night in this isolated area, 20 km from Indelimane. While the combat is engaged, a pick-up flees towards the North. The fighters on the ground call for air reinforcements.

Two Mirages 2000 and a Cougar helicopter, with an immediate extraction team on board, were sent there, as well as two Tiger helicopters. The latter fly higher than the former. Their mission: to identify this fleeing pick-up at altitude.


"Very demanding operational conditions"

Air reinforcements take less than 30 minutes to arrive in the combat zone. It is around 6 p.m. and night has already fallen. A dark and moonless night (helicopter pilots speak of a "level 5 night", that is, total darkness which makes it particularly difficult to pilot their craft.) "Very demanding combat conditions and operational conditions" sums up the Chief of the Defense Staff (CEMA), General François Lecointre.

The lack of visibility, in particular, constitutes a huge risk: "It must be understood that through night vision binoculars, you have particularly degraded images, you must intellectually be able to reconstruct the relief, while being fully aware of the mission that you are going to carry out, "explained Wednesday the spokesman of the staff of the armies, Frédéric Barbry, himself a former helicopter pilot.

On the ground, the paratrooper commandos on the ground heard two explosions. It is 6:38 p.m. The Tiger who remains in flight quickly confirms what everyone already suspects and fears: there has been a collision between the Cougar and one of the two Tiger.

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