On 25 November, shortly before 20:00 (UTC +1) thirteen French soldiers – engaged in operation Barkhane (an ongoing anti-insurgent operation in Africa’s Sahel region) – died in an accident between two French Air Force helicopters. According to the first assessments, a Eurocopter Tiger and a Eurocopter Cougar collided at very low altitude above the region of Liptako Malian.
The soldiers were involved in an operation to support the commandos of the Barkhane force who were onto armed terrorist groups. After ground operations, the commandos tracked down a group of terrorists, who evolved into pickups and motorcycles. Shortly after, they were reinforced by helicopters and a Mirage 2000 patrol.
The Eurocopter Cougar, with six Mountain Commandos and one Mission Chief on board, was then engaged to coordinate the operation. Stand-by to intervene on the ground.
Around 19:40, during the maneuver to prepare for the engagement of the enemy, the Eurocopter Cougar and the Eurocopter Tiger collided, crashing close to each other. None of the soldiers survived the crash. A search-and-rescue operation towards the crash site is underway while other soldiers of the Barkhane force are still engaged.
General François Lecointre, Chief of Staff of the French Army, is deeply saddened by the loss of these thirteen soldiers, who died for France. All of his thoughts are with the families, relatives and brothers in arms.