Nov. 26 (UPI) -- Thirteen French soldiers died in a helicopter accident in Northern Mali while battling jihadist fighters, French President Emmanuel Macron announced Tuesday.
Macron in a Tweet called the 13 victims "heroes" who died while protecting France from terrorism.
The French defense ministry said the casualty list included six officers and a master corporal and noted it was the heaviest loss of life for the army since 1983, when 58 soldiers were killed in a Beirut attack.
It also brought the number of French troops killed in Mali to 41 since they were first assigned to the country in a fight against an Islamist insurgency.
Officials said the accident happened when an attack helicopter collided with a military transport helicopter during anti-terrorist operations near Mail's borders with Burkina Faso and Niger. Both aircraft were involved in chasing a ground force of insurgents when they collided midair and crashed close to each other, the defense ministry said.
French Defense Minister Florence Parly said an inquiry has been launched into the cause of the accident.