President François Hollande expressed “deep sadness” at the news and hailed the soldier’s “sacrifice” in a statement Thursday.
The non-commissioned officer was killed by an improvised explosive device apparently planted by Islamist fighters on Wednesday night.
French and African troops are fighting jihadi groups that took over the region before France’s Serval operation cleared them out of the major towns.
“He died for the freedom of Mali, the security of Mali but also for the freedom and security of Europe and France,” Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told BFMTV and RMC radio.
RFI's Ghislaine Dupont and Claude Verlon were murdered while reporting on the situation in northern Mali last year.