France's Le Drian: We must not let the guard down in Mali

FILE PHOTO: Jean-Yves Le Drian, Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, and Franck Riester, Junior Minister for Foreign Trade and Attractiveness, arrive to attend the weekly cabinet meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France, July 7, 2020. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier

PARIS (Reuters) - French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on Sunday France will continue with its military operations in Mali where two French soldiers were killed on Saturday.

“There is no question of letting down the guard...We are making progress in Mali where we are fighting to insure our security and that other countries,” Le Drian told France Inter radio.

Two French soldiers were killed and a third was seriously injured while on an operation in Mali on Saturday when an improvised explosive device destroyed their armored vehicle.[nL8N2G20IM]

The soldiers were part of France’s Barkhane military operations in Mali against Islamic fighters.

Le Drian echoed President Emmanuel Macron’s call on Saturday for setting up a transition back to civilian rule in Mali.

International powers fear the ousting of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita in a military coup on Aug. 18 could further destabilise the West African nation and undermine the fight against insurgents linked to al Qaeda and Islamic State in the wider Sahel region.

Reporting by Dominique Vidalon, editing by Louise Heavens