A French soldier was killed and a U.S. service member was wounded by mortar shelling on a base in Mali on Sunday, according to U.S. Africa Command and the French military.
The U.S. service member sustained non-life threatening injuries following the mortar attack on an Operation Barkhane military base in the city of Gao, AFRICOM spokeswoman Kelly Cahalan told Military Times.
Operation Barkhane is the French-led counterterrorism operation in the Sahel.
“The [American] servicemember was transferred to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center on Sunday, Jan. 23,” Cahalan said by email. “U.S. AFRICOM supports French efforts in the region by routinely sharing assets such as medical evacuation, logistics support, ISR, and air refueling support.”
The last documented incident in which U.S. troops were wounded in Mali occurred in 2018 after roughly 30 local al-Qaida affiliates assaulted the U.N. Super Camp near Timbuktu Airport, which Military Times reported for the first time in 2020.
The French soldier who was killed during Sunday’s attack was a 24-year-old artilleryman named Alexandre Martin. He was serving with France’s anti-insurgent force on Operation Barkhane, according to a statement from the French military.
Several rounds targeted the military camp in Gao, the French military statement said. Martin was seriously wounded and later died, it added. The military said nine other soldiers were slightly injured.
Martin’s death brings the total number of combat deaths suffered by French forces to 53 over nine years of fighting in Mali, according to France 24.
In a statement, French President Emmanuel Macron saluted the soldier’s service and reiterated “France’s determination to continue the fight against terrorism in the region, alongside its partners.”
French troops have been present in Mali since 2013, when they intervened to force Islamic extremist rebels from power in towns across the country’s north.
Operation Serval was later replaced by Barkhane and was expanded to include other countries in an effort to help stabilize Africa’s broader Sahel region.
The French force has been operating in Mali, Chad, Niger, Burkina Faso and Mauritania. France has previously announced plans to reduce the force from 5,000 troops to 2,500-3,000 soldiers over the long term.
Rachel is a Marine Corps veteran, Penn State alumna and Master's candidate at New York University for Business and Economic Reporting.
Howard Altman is an award-winning editor and reporter who was previously the military reporter for the Tampa Bay Times and before that the Tampa Tribune, where he covered USCENTCOM, USSOCOM and SOF writ large among many other topics.