Tuesday 23 January 2018

French forces battle militants in northern Mali

French forces battle militants in northern Mali
(AFP 06/03/17)

French forces operating in northern Mali said Friday that they had taken "out of action" around 20 militants in operations against jihadist groups this week.

Soldiers taking part in Operation Barkhane, the French counterterror mission operating across the Sahel region, called in Mirage 2000 jets and Tiger attack helicopters.

"The Barkhane force carried out a new operation in the Serma forest...taking around 20 terrorists out of action," Barkhane said in a statement.

The assault, which began Sunday and ended Thursday resulted in the seizure of weapons, munitions and other equipment.

Barkhane added that a series of operations carried out with Mali and Burkina Faso forces since the end of April, along with air and land surveillance of local activity had "produced intelligence on operations by armed terrorist groups in the region".

On Thursday, four French soldiers were wounded, one seriously, when a mortar struck a Barkhane camp outside Timbuktu.

A day earlier, three Malian soldiers were killed in an ambush in northern Mali.

Operation Barkhane comprises around 4,000 soldiers who are deployed in five countries -- Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Chad and Burkina Faso -- all of which are menaced by the jihadist threat across porous borders.

Nineteen French soldiers have died serving in Mali since 2013 when Hollande launched an intervention to chase out jihadists linked to Al-Qaeda who had overtaken key northern cities, according to the latest defence ministry figures.

Jihadists continue to roam the country's north and centre, mounting attacks on civilians and the army, as well as French and UN forces still stationed there.

Last month, French President Emmanuel Macron visited troops in Mali, on his first official visit outside Europe after taking power

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