“This is the first time I have come to such an event … it is terrible. They died for France. They gave what is most precious to their country: their lifeGeneviève Lang, a retiree who accompanies her husband, the Arc de Triomphe flame commissioner, told AFP.
The crowd had gathered on the Alexandre III bridge to see the funeral procession of three cars pass, flanked by motorcycles of gendarmes lined up in spikes, who accompanied them to the Hôtel des Invalides.
Brigadier-chief Tanerii Mauri and first class hunters Quentin Pauchet and Dorian Issakhanian, who belonged to the 1st regiment of hunters of Thierville-sur-#Meuse, near Verdun (east), were carrying out an escort mission in a border area of the Niger and Burkina Faso when they were killed in an attack claimed by GSIM, a jihadist group affiliated with Al-#Qaeda.
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Away on the bridge, Hélène, an employee in a college in Paris, a high school friend of Dorian Issakhanian, a 23-year-old soldier, is in tears.
“Normally we should have seen each other before he joined the army but I was working so it didn’t happen“, she told AFP, adding that they were”stayed in touch” and “it touches that there are so many people“.
Two other French soldiers were killed and a third wounded in northeastern Mali on Saturday in another improvised explosive device attack.
They are two soldiers from the 2nd Hussar Regiment from Haguenau (eastern France), Sergeant Yvonne Huynh, a 33-year-old young mother and the first woman to die in the Sahel, and Brigadier Loïc Risser, 24.
– “it’s starting to suffice” –
“We don’t feel very well, we would prefer to greet the soldiers other than dead. It’s starting to suffice. Perhaps we should stop a bit with Mali or others come to help us“, commented to AFP Michel Ecarot, standard bearer of the Paris police headquarters and former para commando in the air force.
“It starts badly, the year, there are still two young people who follow, a woman and a young man, it is a disaster, it is very serious“, added Christiane Domart, another flagship of the prefecture.
The last two deaths brought to 49 the number of French soldiers killed in the Sahel since 2013 in the anti-jihadist operations Serval and then Barkhane. The toll stands at 50 if we add a soldier who died in Chad in 2013 as part of Operation Epervier.
“The modus operandi leaves them no chance: an anti-tank rocket planted in the ground with a detonator and a plate .., it’s horrible“, explains Philippe Favarel, director of the security service of the National Assembly, former air force, in the nuclear tests, Pacific zone. For him,”it is legitimate for France to be there but do we have the means, are there enough of us in a European context, are we sufficiently supported by the others?”
France is present in the Sahel as part of Operation Barkhane, which deploys 5,100 soldiers in this immense area, faced with jihadist violence and a security crisis which have killed thousands of civilians and soldiers in recent years.