Two French soldiers were killed in Mali when an improvised explosive device hit their armoured vehicle, five days after three others died in similar circumstances, the French presidency confirmed.

The soldiers were participating in an intelligence mission in the Menaka region of north-eastern Mali, as part of a larger operation aimed at fighting Islamist extremists in Africa’s Sahel region.

A third soldier was injured and is in a stable condition, the French military said.

On Monday, three other soldiers were killed in Mali when an improvised explosive device hit their vehicle during a military operation in the Hombori area of Mali’s central Mopti province.

French president Emmanuel Macron expressed “his great sadness” in a statement released late on Saturday. He reaffirmed France’s determination “in its fight against terrorism” and paid tribute to the “courage” of French soldiers.

France has more than 5,000 troops deployed in West Africa to help fight extremist groups as part of Operation Barkhane.

Islamic extremist rebels were forced from power in northern Mali after a 2013 French-led military operation. The rebels regrouped in the desert and now launch frequent attacks on the Malian army and its allies.

These deaths bring to 50 the number of French soldiers killed in the Sahel region since 2013.