The Islamic State armed group has claimed responsibility for two attacks in north-eastern Mali near Menaka region. The first raid on a military base on Friday killed 49 Malian soldiers, with a French soldier killed the following day by a roadside bomb.
Corporal Ronan Pointeau died near Menaka in eastern Mali following "the detonation of an improvised explosive device as his armoured vehicle drove by," the statement said.
President Emmanuel Macron paid tribute to Pointeau's "sacrifice" and said his thoughts were with the soldier's colleagues and "his Sahelian brothers in arms, who are paying a heavy price in the fight against terrorism."
The Sahel region is the scene of repeated clashes between jihadists and local forces backed by troops from Western countries.
The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attack late on Saturday. IS group fighters "detonated an explosive device on a French army convoy in the Indelimane area", it said on its Telegram channel.
The group also claimed responsibility for Friday’s attack on a Malian army base in the same region that killed 49 troops. "Soldiers of the caliphate attacked a military base where elements of the apostate Malian army were stationed in the village of Indelimane," said the IS group statement. The Malian government initially said more than 50 soldiers were killed in what it called a "terrorist attack".
Regional, French, UN troops in increasingly violent region
The attacks have underscored the deteriorating security situation in the Sahel despite the presence of French troops and Macron’s continued support for counterinsurgency operations in the scrubland region between the Sahara and the African savanna.
Mali, Mauritania, Chad, Niger and Burkina Faso are part of the G5 Sahel security alliance that has struggled to contain the violence in the impoverished border region. The much-trumpeted initiative has a joint 5,000-man anti-terror force, helped by former colonial ruler France.
In addition to French troops, the UN has around 15,000 troops, including under MINUSMA, the UN mission in Mali.
French Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly on Saturday said she would be "visiting Mali very soon to hold discussions with Malian authorities."