Two French military helicopters that crashed in Mali this week were not under fire from Islamic State jihadists a senior French officer said, contradicting a statement from the militants.
A day earlier, Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP) said the helicopters collided after one retreated under fire from its fighters, but did not provide evidence for its claim.
“There was no gunfire from jihadists on our helicopters,” French army chief of staff François Lecointre told French radio station RFI. The army said the helicopters crashed after colliding during a combat operation.
Lecointre added France had no intention of withdrawing from Mali but it needed more support from its allies.
France, the former colonial power in the region, intervened in Mali in 2013 to drive out militants occupying the north. It still has a 4 500-strong Barkhane force countering insurgencies in the region.
French President Emmanuel Macron, in a joint news conference with NATO General-Secretary Jens Stoltenberg, said France was acting on everyone in the Sahel’s behalf and also pressed French allies to do more.
Macron asked his government to look hard at French operations in the region and said “all options are open”.
French officials ruled out France withdrawing its force from the region fearing more chaos.