Thirteen French soldiers killed in Mali in a helicopter crash (v5)

(B2) Thirteen French soldiers died during a military operation in Mali in the evening of Monday, November 25, 2019, announced the Elysée in a statement issued this Tuesday morning, “during a combat operation against jihadists” in the Malian Liptako area

The thirteen fallen soldiers (credit : DICOD / EMA)

The six officers, six non-commissioned officers and one master corporal who died belonged mainly to the 5th Combat Helicopter Regiment (régiment d’hélicoptères de combat- RHC) of Pau and the 4th Alpine hunters Regiment (4e régiment de chasseurs alpins de Gap – 4e RCh) (see box). It is one of the most serious simultaneous losses in France since the Uzbin ambush in Afghanistan in 2008, ten soldiers were killed and 21 wounded.

A crash between two helicopters
Based on the first elements given by the defence staff, Tuesday morning, it was a collision between the two engines – a Tigre and a Cougar – « which where at very low altitude that would the origin of the accident ». The two engines participated in « a support operation for the commandos of the Barkhane force in contact with terrorist armed groups ».

An operation in the malian Liptako
Engaged on the ground for a few days already, the french military commandos were « tracking a group of terrorists, identified a few hours prior, which were moving with pick-ups and motocycles ». Very rapidly, the helicopters as well as a Mirage 2000 patrol were called to the rescue.

An aerial support
The Cougar helicopter, with six commandos de montagne and one chief of mission on board, was engaged « to coordinate the entire ressources, while also being in mesure to intervene to ensure “the immediate extraction” of an element on the ground ».

The collision around 19h40
Around 19h40, « during a manoeuvre in order to prepare the engagement with the enemy », the Cougar helicopter and the Tigre collided, « crashing a short distance from each other ». Without letting any chance to its occupants. No soldier could be saved. « A rescue and security operation in the accident zone is ongoing. A wide number of ressources of the Barkhane force are still engaged » has indicated the Defence staff. The exact circumstances of the collision are not yet known.

Réactions politiques

The complete confidence of President Macron

The president of the French Republic, Emmanuel Macron, wanted to « commend with the utmost respect the memory of these soldiers of the Ground Army […] who have fallen during an operation and died for France in the hardest combat against terrorism in the Sahel ».

He also commends « the bravery of the french soldiers engaged in the Sahel and their determination to continue their mission » and assured the soldiers deployed in the Barkhane operation of « his complete confidence ». When it comes to the minister of the Army, Florence Parly, she « assured the military families that the military institution is by their side in this hardship ».

The entire Europe is in mourning

Very rapidly, reactions took place in Brussels. The European Union gave its « most sincere condolences to the families of the french soldiers, engaged in the fight against terrorism in the Sahel » according to the spokesperson of Federica Mogherini, the High representative of the EU, contacted by B2. The president of the European commission Jean-Claude Juncker also reacted as well as the president elect of the next Commission, Ursula von der Leyen. Read separate article


Thirteen soldiers fallen on the battlefield

The thirteen soldiers who died during combat are the two crew members of the Tigre du 5e Régiment d’hélicoptères de combat de Pau (5e RHC), the five crew members of the Cougar (5e RHC also), the four operators of the Groupement commandos montagne (GCM) du 4e Régiment de chasseurs de Gap (4e RCH), an operator GCM du 93e Régiment d’artillerie de montagne (93e RAM) and an operator GCM du 2e Régiment étranger du génie (2e REG).

The minister of the Army Florence Parly gave, in the press statement, their identities that B2 therefore allows itself to give you :

  • Le capitaine Nicolas MÉGARD, du 5e Régiment d’hélicoptères de combat de Pau
  • Le capitaine Benjamin GIREUD du 5e Régiment d’hélicoptères de combat de Pau
  • Le capitaine Clément FRISONROCHE du 5e Régiment d’hélicoptères de combat de Pau
  • Le lieutenant Alex MORISSE du 5e Régiment d’hélicoptères de combat de Pau
  • Le lieutenant Pierre BOCKEL du 5e Régiment d’hélicoptères de combat de Pau
  • L’adjudant-chef Julien CARETTE du 5e Régiment d’hélicoptères de combat de Pau
  • Le brigadier-chef Romain SALLES DE SAINT PAUL du 5e Régiment d’hélicoptères de combat de Pau
  • Le capitaine Romain CHOMEL DE JARNIEU du 4e Régiment de chasseurs de Gap
  • Le maréchal des logis-chef Alexandre PROTIN du 4e Régiment de chasseurs de Gap
  • Le maréchal des logis Antoine SERRE du 4e Régiment de chasseurs de Gap
  • Le maréchal des logis Valentin DUVAL du 4e Régiment de chasseurs de Gap
  • Le maréchal des logis-chef Jérémy LEUSIE du 93e Régiment d’artillerie de montagne de Varces
  • Le sergent-chef Andreï JOUK du 2e Régiment étranger de génie de Saint-Christol

NB : The lieutenant Pierre Bockel, one of the two pilots of the Cougar, is the son of senator Jean-Marie Bockel, who was a (socialiste) minister of François Mitterrand, responsible for Trade (1984-1986) and State secretary (UDI) of the Anciens combattants (2008-2009) and to the Francophonie of Nicolas Sarkozy (2007-2008). He is very implicated in defence issues.

(NGV avec RM)

Updated on the 26.11, at 11am with the details of the defence staff, the names and orgins of the fallen soldiers, at 12.30pm and 15.30pm with the first european reactions (F. Mogherini, J-C. Juncker, U. von der Leyen), and at 17pm (Bockel’s son).

Nicolas Gros-Verheyde

Rédacteur en chef du site B2. Diplômé en droit européen de l'université Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne et auditeur 65e session IHEDN (Institut des hautes études de la défense nationale. Journaliste depuis 1989, fonde B2 - Bruxelles2 en 2008. Correspondant UE/OTAN à Bruxelles pour Sud-Ouest (auparavant Ouest-France et France-Soir).