President Muhammadu Buhari has expressed shock and sadness over the death of 13 French soldiers in Mali on Tuesday after a helicopter accident during an operation against terrorists in the country.
According to reports, two helicopters in Mali collided midair during an operation against terrorists, killing 13 French soldiers, the heaviest casualties France has shouldered since launching its military campaign to drive extremists from the country.
Authorities said the helicopters were flying at low altitude to back up troops on the ground in northern Mali when they accidentally crashed into each other Monday evening. The soldiers were pursuing terrorist groups traveling on pickup trucks and motorbikes, a report in the Wall Street Journal said.
Reacting to the incident, President Buhari said “I am deeply saddened by the news of this helicopter accident that claimed the lives of 13 French soldiers during an operation against the terrorists in the country.”
The President, according to a statement by his spokesman, noted that the incident is of significance to Nigeria because France is a major international partner in the war against terrorism.
“We recognise France’s extensive experience in the war on terror and their assistance to African countries, including Nigeria, to tackle terrorism that poses the greatest security threat to the affected countries.
“Terrorism is a global problem that demands international cooperation, and I praise the efforts of the French government in assisting us in confronting this monster,” he said.
The Nigerian leader called on the French government not to allow this unfortunate incident to dampen its enthusiasm in terms of her active support towards fighting terrorism in Africa.
“On behalf of my government and the people of Nigeria, I extend our heartfelt condolences and prayers to the families of these patriotic soldiers that died in the line of duty. May their souls rest in peace”, President Buhari said.