Coffins of 13 French soldiers killed in Mali lay at the Invalides monument during a ceremony Monday Dec.2, 2019 in Paris. In its biggest military funeral in decades, France is honoring 13 soldiers killed when their helicopters collided over Mali while on a mission fighting extremists affiliated with the Islamic State group. (AP Photo/Rafael Yaghobzadeh)

PARIS (AP) — France paid homage Monday to 13 soldiers killed while fighting Islamic State-affiliated extremists in Mali, with their coffins draped in the French tricolor at a solemn ceremony in Paris.

“Freedom, alas, often carries the taste of spilt blood,” said French President Emmanuel Macron, who led the ceremony. “In the nation’s name, I bow to their sacrifice.”

The soldiers were killed instantly when Cougar and Tiger helicopters they were in collided while flying at low altitude on a moonless night, during a chase of extremists across the Malian Sahel, the arid strip south of the Sahara Desert.

Macron, dressed in black, read out the soldiers’ names and pinned medals to cushions on their coffins.

The military funeral at the gold-domed Invalides monument, a former military hospital that houses Napoleon’s tomb, was France’s biggest in decades, attended by veterans, uniformed military units, mourners and Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita.

The Nov. 25 crash caused France’s highest military death toll since 1983, when 58 paratroopers were killed in a truck bombing in Lebanon.

. The French military says it was the result of complex coordination during a combat operation and has dismissed a claim of responsibility by an IS-linked group. The flight recorders were recovered and an investigation has begun. The coffins arrived in France over the weekend.

The deaths draw new attention to a worrying front in the global fight against extremism, one in which France and local countries have pleaded for more support. In a surge of violence this month, attackers often linked to IS have killed scores of troops in West Africa’s Sahel region.

French President Emmanuel Macron delivers his speech during a ceremony for the 13 French soldiers killed in Mali, Monday Dec.2, 2019 at the Invalides monument in Paris. In its biggest military funeral in decades, France is honoring 13 soldiers killed when their helicopters collided over Mali while on a mission fighting extremists affiliated with the Islamic State group. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus, Pool)
Veterans take place on the Alexandre III bridge as France prepares to pay homage to the 13 French soldiers killed in Mali, Monday Dec.2, 2019 in Paris. In its biggest military funeral in decades, France is honoring 13 soldiers killed when their helicopters collided over Mali while on a mission fighting extremists affiliated with the Islamic State group. (AP Photo/Rafael Yaghobzadeh)
Veterans take place on the Alexandre III bridge as France prepares to pay homage to the 13 French soldiers killed in Mali, Monday Dec.2, 2019 in Paris. In its biggest military funeral in decades, France is honoring 13 soldiers killed when their helicopters collided over Mali while on a mission fighting extremists affiliated with the Islamic State group. (AP Photo/Rafael Yaghobzadeh)
The funeral convoy crosses the Alexandre III bridge as France prepares to pay homage to the 13 French soldiers killed in Mali, Monday Dec.2, 2019 in Paris. In its biggest military funeral in decades, France is honoring 13 soldiers killed when their helicopters collided over Mali while on a mission fighting extremists affiliated with the Islamic State group. (AP Photo/Rafael Yaghobzadeh)
Veterans and soldiers wait in line on the Alexandre III bridge as France prepares to pay homage to the 13 French soldiers killed in Mali, Monday Dec.2, 2019 in Paris. In its biggest military funeral in decades, France is honoring 13 soldiers killed when their helicopters collided over Mali while on a mission fighting extremists affiliated with the Islamic State group. The Grand Palais is in background. (AP Photo/Rafael Yaghobzadeh)
In this Saturday, Nov. 30, 2019 photo provided by French Defense Communication and Audiovisual Department (ECPAD), soldiers stand guard by the coffins of the 13 French soldiers, in Gao, Mali. France will pay Monday a national homage for the 13 French soldiers killed inan helicopter collision while fighting Islamic State group-linked extremists. (Thomas Peudeleux/ECPAD via AP)
In this Saturday, Nov. 30, 2019 photo provided by French Defense Communication and Audiovisual Department (ECPAD), French soldiers attend a ceremony before loading the coffins of the 13 French soldiers into a military plane, in Gao, Mali. France will pay Monday a national homage for the 13 French soldiers killed inan helicopter collision while fighting Islamic State group-linked extremists. (Thomas Peudeleux/ECPAD via AP)
In this Saturday, Nov. 30, 2019 photo provided by French Defense Communication and Audiovisual Department (ECPAD), soldiers salute as the coffins of the 13 French soldiers are loaded into a military plane, in Gao, Mali. France will pay Monday a national homage for the 13 French soldiers killed inan helicopter collision while fighting Islamic State group-linked extremists. (Thomas Peudeleux/ECPAD via AP)
In this Saturday, Nov. 30, 2019 photo provided by French Defense Communication and Audiovisual Department (ECPAD), soldiers salute as the coffins of the 13 French soldiers are loaded into a military plane, in Gao, Mali. France will pay Monday a national homage for the 13 French soldiers killed inan helicopter collision while fighting Islamic State group-linked extremists. (Thomas Peudeleux/ECPAD via AP)
In this Saturday, Nov. 30, 2019 photo provided by French Defense Communication and Audiovisual Department (ECPAD), soldiers carry the coffin of one of the 13 French soldiers during a ceremony before loading the coffins into a military plane, in Gao, Mali. France will pay Monday a national homage for the 13 French soldiers killed inan helicopter collision while fighting Islamic State group-linked extremists. (Thomas Peudeleux/ECPAD via AP)
Coffins of French soldiers killed in Mali are carried in the courtyard of the Invalides monument during a ceremony Monday Dec.2, 2019 in Paris. In its biggest military funeral in decades, France is honoring 13 soldiers killed when their helicopters collided over Mali while on a mission fighting extremists affiliated with the Islamic State group. (AP Photo/Rafael Yaghobzadeh)