DAKAR, Senegal (AP) — France's defense ministry says it has carried out its first armed drone strike, killing seven Islamic extremists in central Mali over the weekend.
France joins a tiny group of countries that use armed drones, including the United States.
A statement Monday says the drone strike took place Saturday while French President Emmanuel Macron was visiting neighboring Ivory Coast, where France has a military base.
The drone deployment came nearly one month after two French helicopters collided in Mali, killing 13 soldiers in the deadliest military loss for France in nearly four decades.
The French military successfully tested its weaponized Reaper drone for the first time last week, and Defense Minister Florence Parly called the drones “protectors for our troops and effective against the enemy."
She said they allow French troops more discretion and flexibility, and insisted that France will respect rules of armed conflict in using the drones.
Parly had announced in 2017 that France would arm its surveillance drones after the country suffered a string of extremist attacks.