A Gazelle helicopter deployed in Mali with the French Army’s Operation Barkhane was shot down by jihadists on June 14, close to the border between Mali and Niger. At the time, the French General Staff spoke of an "emergency landing," Radio France Internationale (RFI) reported June 24. The three soldiers wounded in the crash were able to finally reach a military hospital in France.
On Friday morning, June 14, Barkhane soldiers were fighting in the heart of a jihadist hideout on the border between Mali and Niger, aided by the forces of both countries. A French Gazelle helicopter was hit by 7.62 mm caliber fire from a Kalashnikov-PKM machine gun, causing a fire and then a loss of engine power, forcing the crew to make a forced landing near the combat zone on dusty ground and with bad visibility, according to RFI.
The pilot and aircraft commander at the front of the aircraft are injured by the hard landing, while in the back, a commando sniper was more lightly injured, and managed to pull his comrades out of the helicopter, before a Tiger attack helicopter cames to assist them, at the risk of being shot in its turn.
But this two-seat helicopter is not designed for transport, so the French soldiers then applied an immediate extraction measure: the two most seriously injured soldiers were strapped to the outside of Tiger, near the landing gear. The commando sniper blew up the damaged Gazelle and was then exfiltrated by another helicopter, according to RFI.
This event testifies to the preparations for the fighting that took place in recent weeks on the border between Mali and Niger. On that day, 20 members of an armed group believed to be members of the Islamic State for the Great Sahara were killed or taken prisoner. Twenty motorcycles, weapons and means of communication were recovered, the French staff said.