A French corporal was killed tracking down jihadist fighters in their northern Mali mountain bastions, bringing to five the number of French deaths since the January 11 military intervention, officials said Sunday.
France's Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said the 24-year-old soldier was killed and three of his comrades wounded when their vehicle was struck by a roadside bomb blast in the Ifoghas mountains, reports AFP.
Alexandre Van Dooren was "taking part in a search and destroy mission targeting terrorist weapons caches south of Tessalit" near the Algerian border, Le Drian said in a statement.
According to army sources, two of the wounded were in serious condition.
With its special forces and aerial firepower, the French military took only days to reconquer the main cities in northern Mali, which Al-Qaeda's North African franchise and its allies had controlled for nine months.
But the bulk of jihadist fighters moved north to fight from their remote mountain strongholds and France has admitted that flushing them out was the most perilous phase of its involvement.
President Francois Hollande's office paid tribute to the French forces involved in "the final and most difficult phase of their mission" in Mali.
Read more of this report from AFP.