Investigators have found the “black boxes” from the debris of this week’s fatal French military helicopter crash and authorities will soon start examining them, a military spokesman said on Wednesday.
Col. Frederic Barbry also told French TV station BFM TV that the bodies of the 13 dead French soldiers would soon be repatriated to France.
The soldiers died in Mali on Nov. 25, when their helicopters collided as they hunted in the dark for militants.
It was the biggest loss of French troops in a single day since an attack in Beirut 36 years ago when 58 soldiers died.
The helicopters apparently collided at low altitude while preparing to attack a group of militants, who were being tracked by French commandos, the French general staff said on Tuesday.
All those on board, including six officers and six non-commissioned officers, were killed in the crash.
The troops were part of Operation Barkhane, a 4,500-strong French force which backs up local military in the Sahel region against extremists.
French troops have been posted in Mali since 2013, when they helped restore government control over the north of the country.
Malian President Ibrahim Aboubacar Keita too paid tribute to the dead soldiers.
“The French are now also operating from bases in Niger and Chad against militant groups, who are currently active across the Sahel region.
Monday’s operation took place in the Liptako area, in the troubled “tri-border region” where Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger meet.
The incident comes weeks after 53 Malian soldiers and a civilian were killed in a suspected jihadist attack on a military post in the north of the country.
According to newspaper Le Figaro, 23 French soldiers in total had died in Mali as of Nov. 10.