A French soldier was killed in a suicide bombing in northern Mali, where local and foreign troops have struggled to restore order after quelling an Islamist insurgency last year, officials said.
The Foreign Legion soldier, the ninth to die since France intervened in its former colony in January 2013, was killed in the northern city of Gao on Monday, the defense ministry said.
France's intervention in the African country halted the advance of al Qaeda-linked Islamists who had taken advantage of a Tuareg separatist uprising to occupy swathes of land in the north.
France and other Western powers feared the Islamists could further destabilize the region and use the country as a launchpad for foreign attacks.
Peace talks were due to begin between Mali government officials and Tuareg rebels in Algeria on Wednesday.
French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian was also set to travel to Mali on Wednesday and President Francois Hollande was due in the region later this week. Both had been expected to say the security threat in Mali had reduced and that France should start redeploying its troops.
(Reporting by John Irish and Marine Pennetier)