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France remembers 13 soldiers killed in Mali helicopter collision

The funeral convoy crosses the Alexandre III bridge as France prepares to pay homage to the 13 French soldiers killed in Mali, Monday Dec.2, 2019 in Paris.

RAFAEL YAGHOBZADEH/AP

By ASSOCIATED PRESS Published: December 2, 2019

PARIS — In its biggest military funeral in decades, France is honoring 13 soldiers killed when their helicopters collided over Mali while on a mission fighting extremists affiliated with the Islamic State group.

A few thousand people — veterans, uniformed military units and ordinary residents — lined the Alexander II Bridge and the esplanade leading toward the gold-domed Invalides monument in Paris on Monday to pay their respects, as 13 hearses drove slowly past.

French President Emmanuel Macron and Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita will preside over the funeral ceremony at the Invalides, a former military hospital that houses Napoleon’s tomb.

The 13 coffins, draped in the French tricolor, arrived in France over the weekend.

Tuesday’s crash was France’s highest military death toll since 1983. The French military says it was the result of complex coordination during a combat operation and has dismissed a claim of responsibility by an IS-linked group. The flight recorders were recovered and an investigation has begun.

The deaths draw new attention to a worrying front in the global fight against extremism, one in which France and local countries have pleaded for more support. In a surge of violence this month, attackers often linked to IS have killed scores of troops in West Africa’s arid Sahel region.

In this Saturday, Nov. 30, 2019 photo provided by French Defense Communication and Audiovisual Department, soldiers carry the coffin of one of the 13 French soldiers during a ceremony before loading the coffins into a military plane, in Gao, Mali.
THOMAS PEUDELEUX/ECPAD/AP

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