Tue, Dec 03, 2019 - Page 7 News List

Fury over ‘Charlie Hebdo’ cartoons on army deaths


French soldiers at a military base in Gao, Mali, on Saturday load a coffin onto an aircraft for transport to a funeral ceremony in France.

Photo: EPA-EFE

French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo on Sunday defended itself following outrage over cartoons about a deadly military helicopter crash in Mali, the day before a memorial service for the 13 dead soldiers.

The magazine, which was itself the target of a devastating attack by Islamic militants in January 2015, published the cartoons on its Web site.

The French Army Chief of Staff General Thierry Burkhard expressed his “indignation” at the cartoons in response to last week’s deaths.

However, Charlie Hebdo editor Laurent “Riss” Sourisseau on Sunday defended the magazine’s “satirical spirit,” while acknowledging the importance of the work of the French army.

The soldiers died on Monday last week when the two military helicopters in which they were traveling collided and crashed during a nighttime operation in Mali against militants.

One of the five cartoons on Charlie Hebdo’s Web site showed French President Emmanuel Macron standing in front of a coffin covered with the French tricolor. The text reads: “I joined the ranks to stand out from the crowd” — a slogan that the army is using for its recruitment campaign.

The soldiers who died were serving on France’s Operation Barkhane to help local forces fight the increasingly active militant forces in the Sahel region of Africa.

Their bodies have been flown home and yesterday afternoon, Macron paid tribute to them in a special ceremony also attended by Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita.

Meanwhile, 58 percent of French people back the country’s military operations in Mali, despite last week’s army helicopter crash, a survey said yesterday.

“The level of support from French people remains very stable,” said Jerome Fourquet, who helped carry out the survey for Ifop, which was published in La Lettre de l’Expansion.

Last week, French President Emmanuel Macron ordered the military to review its operations against Islamist militants in West Africa and pressed his allies to do more after the French soldiers died.

Keita has urged Malians not to “bite the hands” of nations giving aid, in a response to growing hostility to foreign forces helping the Sahel country battle Islamist militants.

“We have no reason to glorify how we reached out to those who needed our help yesterday,” Keita said in a statement on Saturday, referring to Malian soldiers’ involvement in World War I, World War II and peacekeeping missions. “But we also have no reason to bite the hands of those who give us theirs today.”

Additional reporting by Reuters

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