National tribute Wednesday at Les Invalides to the French soldier who died in Mali

The French soldier was killed during a reconnaissance and harassment operation conducted by the anti-jihadist force Barkhane in the region of Gossi, near the border between Mali and Burkina Faso.

© Major State of the Army / AFP

A national tribute chaired by Emmanuel Macron will be paid Wednesday at 4:30 pm at the Hôtel des Invalides to French master corporal Maxime Blasco, a soldier with an “exceptional career” killed in operation in Mali, the Elysee announced on Tuesday. The funeral procession will cross the Alexandre III bridge in Paris beforehand, as per tradition. On Thursday, another tribute will be paid to him in Varces (Isère, south-east) by his brothers in arms of the 7th battalion of alpine hunters.

The French soldier was killed during an operation recognition and harassment carried out by the Barkhane anti-jihadist force in the Gossi region, near the border between Mali and Burkina Faso. Several times decorated, Master Corporal Blasco, 34, received in June the military medal “for the exceptional value of his services”. “He was someone who had an exceptional operational background”, according to Colonel Pascal Ianni, spokesman for the armies.

In 2019, he saved the lives of two of his comrades after their Gazelle helicopter crashed. Seriously injured, in particular with multiple vertebral fractures, he had succeeded in extracting them over about fifty meters before installing them “in a somewhat artisanal way on the pads” of a Tiger helicopter to extract them from the combat zone, according to the staff. His death brings to 52 the number of French soldiers killed in action in the Sahel since 2013. Tuesday, the National Assembly observed a minute of silence in his memory.

Very tense context between Paris and Bamako

His death comes at a time of a re-articulation and a reduction of the French military apparatus in the Sahel, in a very tense context between Paris and Bamako. The ruling junta in Bamako plans to sign a contract with the sulphurous Russian paramilitary company Wagner, described as close to Russian power. A deployment of these mercenaries would be “incompatible” with the maintenance of French troops in Mali, Paris warned. Malian Prime Minister Choguel Kokalla Maïga on Saturday accused France of an “abandonment in flight”, defending the discussions underway in Bamako to join other partners.

“It’s a lot of hypocrisy, it’s a lot of bad faith, a lot of indecency especially because these remarks were made on Saturday September 25, but on Friday September 24 a 52nd French soldier gave his life to fight the terrorism in the Sahel “, indignant Minister of the Armies Florence Parly on Monday, assuring that” the transformation of our military apparatus in the Sahel does not constitute a departure from Mali “. France plans to leave the northernmost bases of Mali (Kidal, Timbuktu and Tessalit), while maintaining its presence in Gao, Gossi and Ménaka. French troops in the Sahel will be reduced by 2023 to 2,500-3,000 men, against more than 5,000 today.

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