PARIS, Nov. 26 (Xinhua) -- Thirteen French troops were killed in a helicopter accident during an operation against jihadist fighters in Mali, President Emmanuel Macron's office announced on Tuesday.
"The President of the Republic announces with deep sadness the death of 13 French troops in Mali on the evening of Nov. 25, in an accident of their two helicopters during a combat mission against jihadists," said the Elysee.
The accident happened when the two military helicopters, "Tigre" and "Cougar," collided while flying at a very low altitude, the French media reports said. The helicopters were deployed to back up the French troops who were tracking down jihadist fighters in southeast Mali.
The loss was among France's biggest in a single military operation, bringing the death toll of French troops in Mali to 38, said reports by state-run France Info.
In a Twitter message, former French President Francois Hollande, who had decided to send troops to Mali in 2013, wrote, "France is crying today."
France has deployed some 4,500 French troops in West Africa's Sahel region to combat extremist rebels and restore security there. Mali is one of more than 10 countries in the Sahel region, which also include Burkina Faso, Niger and Chad. The former French colonies in West Africa covered areas of the above-mentioned four countries in the Sahel region.
Jihadist fighters have staged a series of deadly strikes in Mali in recent weeks. On Nov. 2, a French soldier aboard an armored vehicle was killed by a roadside bomb while patrolling Mali's eastern border region, a day after some 50 Malian soldiers were killed in a "terrorist attack" on a military post in northeast Mali.