French soldier dies in attack on Mali base

France says one soldiers has been killed in a mortar attack on an anti-insurgent base in Mali.
France says one soldiers has been killed in a mortar attack on an anti-insurgent base in Mali.

A French soldier has been killed in a mortar shelling attack on a base in Mali, the military says.

The 24-year-old artilleryman, Alexandre Martin, was serving with France's anti-insurgent force Operation Barkhane, according to a statement from the French army.

Several rounds targeted the military camp in Gao on Saturday, the army statement said. Martin was seriously wounded and later died, it said. The army said nine other soldiers were slightly injured.

It said helicopters were subsequently deployed to "neutralise the terrorists who fired the shots."

In a statement, French President Emmanuel Macron saluted the soldier's service and reiterated "France's determination to continue the fight against terrorism in the region, alongside its partners."

French troops have been present in Mali since 2013, when they intervened to force Islamic extremist rebels from power in towns across the country's north.

Operation Serval was later replaced by Barkhane and was expanded to include other countries in an effort to help stabilize Africa's broader Sahel region.

The French force has been operating in Mali, Chad, Niger, Burkina Faso and Mauritania. France has previously announced plans to reduce the force from 5000 troops to 2500-3000 soldiers over the long term.

Australian Associated Press