BAMAKO (Dispatches) – A French military base in Mali was targeted by a rocket attack early Sunday, according to media reports.
The Gao military base in Northern Mali was hit with rockets, France 24 reported.
The Italian Ministry of Defense said that none of the 20 Italian soldiers on duty at the base were injured.
Italian Defense Minister Lorenzo Guerini is closely following the situation, it added.
Gao, where France’s main military base is located in Mali, is also known as the center of Operation Barkhane, which the country has been carrying out in the region since 2013.
Later, French President Emmanuel Macron’s office said in a statement a French soldier has died in an attack on the Barkhane military camp in Gao.
Macron’s office paid tribute to Brigadier Alexandre Martin of the 54th artillery regiment of Hyères, who was killed in a mortar attack in northern Mali on Saturday.
His death “confirms France’s determination to continue the fight against terrorism in the region, alongside its partners”, the statement from the Elysée Palace said.
“Deep sadness at the news of the death in combat of Brigadier Alexandre Martin on January 22 in Gao, Mali. I salute his commitment,” the French army’s chief of general staff tweeted on Sunday.
France has withdrawn from northern Mali and the historic city of Timbuktu nine years after launching a war without the initial approval of the United Nations or even the French parliament.
A French mission began in Mali in 2013 to allegedly counter militants that Paris claims are linked to the Al-Qaeda and Daesh terrorist groups. France, a former colonizer of Africa, also deployed thousands of soldiers to presumably prevent separatist forces from reaching Mali’s capital, Bamako.
The war caused several thousand deaths and more than a million people to flee their homes. There have been two military coups in little over a year, amid growing demonstrations against France’s military presence.
France has been one of the world’s colonizing countries that after many years of slavery still controls countries spread over more than 12 territories and treats their people as second-class citizens.
It has had more than 50 military interventions in Africa since 1960, when many of its former colonies gained nominal independence. Mali remains among the poorest countries in the world, but that’s not due to a lack of resources.
France currently has 5,100 troops in the arid and volatile Sahel region. Under a new plan, they will be reduced to 2,500-3,000 troops. Analysts say it is premature to call it the end of the war, but that France is entering into a new phase of the war.
France is also worried about the alleged deployment of Russian mercenaries in the country.