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Thirteen French soldiers fighting Islamist insurgents in Mali have been killed after two helicopters collided in mid-air.

No one survived the crash which happened as the aircraft were flying very low and “in total darkness” – making the operation more complex.

This is the deadliest incident involving the French military since 1983, when 58 paratroopers were killed in a truck bombing in Lebanon.

The troops who died in Monday’s tragedy in the Liptako region near Niger were helping French commandos on the ground hunting down a group of extremists.

Soldiers killed in mid-air helicopter collision in Mali
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Soldiers killed in mid-air helicopter collision in Mali

French President Emmanuel Macron expressed his “deep sadness” and called the soldiers “heroes” who “had only one goal: protecting us”.

The flight data recorders have been found and an investigation is under way.

The soldiers were chasing fighters with the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara, which is linked to IS.

A new surge in extremist attacks in Mali has killed more than 100 local troops in the past two months.

The region is an emerging front in the fight against IS and other extremist groups, including those linked to al Qaeda, the US has said.

Before his death this year, IS leader Abu Bakr al Baghdadi congratulated “brothers” in Mali and neighbouring Burkina Faso for pledging allegiance.

The French operation in West and Central Africa is its largest overseas military mission and involves 4,500 personnel.

French soldiers arrives with flowers at the 5th Combat Helicopter Regiment base in Uzein near Pau, France
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A soldier arrives with flowers at the 5th combat helicopter regiment base in Uzein near Pau, France

France intervened in 2013 after extremists seized control of major towns in northern Mali and implemented a harsh version of Islamic law.

They were forced back into the desert, where they have regrouped.

Since 2013, at least 44 French soldiers have died in the operation.

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Coronavirus: 56 people killed from outbreak in China | World News

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Fifty-six people have died from the coronavirus outbreak in China, the country’s state media has reported.

It comes as China’s Hubei province reports 13 new deaths from the virus.

The total number of confirmed coronavirus cases in China is now at 1,975.

Shanghai also reported its first death from the outbreak and 323 new confirmed cases of coronavirus infections.



More than 50 million people are on lockdown in China as the government warns the virus is "accelerating its spread".







President Xi warns of ‘grave situation’ as Coronavirus infection spreads

Separately, the province of Henan reported one death from the virus.

The virus originated in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in Hubei late last year and has spread to Chinese cities including Beijing.

President Xi Jinping told a politburo meeting the country was facing a “grave situation” where the virus is “accelerating its spread”.

A report on state TV said resources and experts are being concentrated at designated hospitals for treatment of severe cases, with no treatment delayed due to cost, and supplies of materials to Hubei province and its capital Wuhan to be guaranteed.

Around two dozen cases in all have been confirmed outside mainland China, nearly all of them in Asia: Hong Kong, Macao, South Korea, Japan, Singapore, Thailand, Taiwan, Vietnam, Nepal, Australia, Malaysia and Canada.

Canada declared on Saturday that Toronto had identified its first coronavirus case – a resident who recently returned from Wuhan.

France confirmed three cases on Friday, the first in Europe, and the US identified its second, a woman in Chicago who had returned from China.

Pharmacy workers wearing protective clothes and masks serve customers in Wuhan
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Pharmacy workers wearing protective clothes and masks serve customers in Wuhan
Chinese tourists wearing masks walk through the Ginza shopping district in Tokyo, Japan
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Chinese tourists wearing masks walk through the Ginza shopping district in Tokyo, Japan

“The individual is stable and is hospitalised” the government said in a statement.

China has announced further transport restrictions in a bid to stop the outbreak from spreading, with Hong Kong declaring a virus emergency and scrapping Luna New Year celebrations that began on Saturday.

More follows…

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Coronavirus: President Xi warns of ‘grave situation’ as China infection spreads | World News

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China has confirmed 1,372 people have been infected with coronavirus and 41 people have died.

It comes as President Xi Jinping told a politburo meeting the country was facing a “grave situation” where the virus is “accelerating its spread”.

A report on state TV said resources and experts are being concentrated at designated hospitals for treatment of severe cases, with no treatment delayed due to cost, and supplies of materials to Hubei province and its capital Wuhan to be guaranteed.

The latest tally comes from 29 provinces and cities across China and includes 237 patients in serious condition.

All 41 deaths have been in China, including 39 in Hubei province, the epicentre of the outbreak, and one each in Hebei and Heilongjiang provinces.

China added three cities to those cut off from transportation, bringing the total to 16 in Hubei province and covering a population greater than that of New York, London, Paris and Moscow combined.

Authorities are trying to limit further spread of the disease by preventing people from leaving Wuhan, the city of 11 million where the outbreak originated, and the surrounding area.

The Chinese military dispatched 450 medical staff, some with experience in past outbreaks including SARS and Ebola, who arrived in Wuhan late on Friday night to help treat the many patients hospitalised with viral pneumonia.

Two new dedicated hospitals are being built in the city to cope with rising number of cases.

Construction has already started on the first facility, with enough space for 1,000 patients, which is expected to be completed by 3 February.

The second, which is designed to have 1,300 beds, is due to be finished within three weeks.

The Ministry of Commerce is coordinating an effort to supply more than two million masks and other products from elsewhere in the country.

An unprecedented national lockdown that has kept people from travelling has been expanded to more than 50 million residents, and authorities have cancelled a host of Lunar New Year events.

Temples locked their doors, Beijing’s Forbidden City, Shanghai Disneyland and other major tourist destinations closed, and people cancelled restaurant reservations ahead of the holiday.

The vast majority of cases have been in and around Wuhan or involved people who visited the city or had personal connections to those infected.

About two dozen cases in all have been confirmed outside mainland China, nearly all of them in Asia: Hong Kong, Macao, South Korea, Japan, Singapore, Thailand, Taiwan, Vietnam, Nepal, Australia and Malaysia.

Liang Wudong (Pic: People's Daily)
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Liang Wudong (Pic: People’s Daily)

The virus has also been detected in the US and France.

While most of the deaths have been older patients, a 36-year-old man in Hubei died on Thursday.

State-run China Global Television Network also confirmed that a doctor who had been treating patients in Wuhan, 62-year-old Liang Wudong, had died from the virus.

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Turkey earthquake: Dozens still trapped as 20 killed and 500 injured | World News

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At least 20 people have been killed after an earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 6.8 struck eastern Turkey.

Turkish officials have said more than 553 people are injured, including 11 who are in a serious condition, while around 30 were left trapped in the wreckage of toppled buildings.

The quake struck at 8.55pm local time (5.55pm GMT) at a depth of 6.7km near the town of Sivrice in Elazig
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At least 20 people have died following a 6.8 magnitude earthquake in Turkey

Hundreds of residents were left homeless or with damaged homes as buildings collapsed in affected towns near the centre of the tremor, which was felt in several neighbouring countries.

The quake jolted Elazig province, which is around 340 miles (550km) east of the capital Ankara, and was followed by dozens of aftershocks.

Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said 16 people were killed in Elazig and five more in the neighbouring province of Malatya.

He said two people suffered heart attacks and five others died in Malatya.

Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu described the earthquake as a “level 3” incident, according to Turkey’s emergency response plan – meaning that it called for a national help response but did not require international help.

Around 30 buildings collapsed from the quake in the two provinces, according to Environment Minister Murat Kurum.

State broadcaster TRT showed footage of police and emergency workers searching a partly collapsed building in Elazig, as well as smashed windows and balconies that had crashed to the ground.

Rescue teams could also be seen working by hand to remove bricks and plaster from the ruins.

Residents walk on a street as following a 6.8 magnitude earthquake in Elazig
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The quake jolted Elazig province, which is around 340 miles east of the capital Ankara
Turkish officials and police work at the scene of a collapsed building following a 6.8 magnitude earthquake in Elazig
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More than 500 people were injured in the disaster

Elazig residents whose homes were damaged were being moved to student dormitories or sports centres amid freezing conditions.

Mr Soylu added that the country, which is prone to earthquakes, had learnt lessons from past disasters which helped it address Friday’s quake.

Drones were deployed in search operations and communication between provinces.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in a tweet that all measures were being taken to “ensure that the earthquake that occurred in Elazig and was felt in many areas is overcome with the least amount of loss”.

Turkish officials and police work at the scene of a collapsed building following a 6.8 magnitude earthquake in Elazig
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Many people have lost their homes

The quake struck at 8.55pm local time (5.55pm in the UK) at a depth of 4 miles (6.7km), near the town of Sivrice in Elazig, the Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency (AFAD) said.

Several aftershocks followed, the strongest at 5.4 and 5.1.

The AFAD warned residents not to return to damaged buildings because of the risk of further aftershocks.

It said beds, blankets and tents were being sent to the area, where the overnight temperature was below 0C (32F).

Syria and Iran both reported feeling the earthquake, according to the countries’ state media.

Turkish officials and police try to keep warm at the scene of a collapsed building
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The overnight temperature in the area was below 0C (32F)

Turkey straddles seismic faultiness and has a history of powerful earthquakes.

In 1999, more than 17,000 people were killed when a 7.6 magnitude quake struck the western city of Izmit, around 55 miles (90km) southeast of Istanbul. Around 500,000 people were made homeless after the disaster.

And in 2011 an earthquake struck the eastern city of Van and the town of Ecris, killing at least 523 people.

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