French soldiers keep the pressure on insurgent groups in Mali, Chad, Niger, Mauritania, and Burkina Faso.

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Three French soldiers were killed Monday in Mali when their armored vehicle struck an explosive device in the Hombori region in the center of the poor Sahel state, the Élysée Palace said.

The deaths brought to 47 the number of French soldiers killed in Mali since France first intervened militarily in January 2013 to help drive back Islamist jihadists who had overrun parts of the West African country.

President Emmanuel Macron “salutes the memory of these soldiers with the greatest respect,” the president’s office said in a statement.

Large protests have been taking place in Bamako, Mali’s capital, demanding that French troops leave the country. “We marched for them to leave, and now they send 600 more,” one blogger in Mali wrote in response to the news that more French soldiers were to be deployed to the Sahel.

In total, roughly 5,100 French troops are deployed in Mali and across Chad, Niger, Mauritania, and Burkina Faso. Public opposition to French military intervention in the Sahel, seen as undermining national sovereignty, has been growing over the last year across francophone Africa. The popular Cameroonian musician Géneral Valsero recently declared, “The presence of the French army is an insult,” the guardian reports.

However, it remains critical for the French to maintain their steadfast presence to weaken or destroy the terrorists. Gains have been made by insurgent groups in the north of Mali. Since then, instability has spread, and different states in the region are now dealing with repeated attacks and insurgencies from various groups, some linked to al-Qaeda and Islamic State.

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