More than 50 jihadists have been killed in airstrikes carried out by French forces in Mali, Defense Minister Florence Parly said on Tuesday, calling the deaths a significant blow to Al-Qaeda in the region.
The airstrikes were carried out on Friday in central Mali near the borders of Burkina Faso and Niger, Parly said after meeting members of Mali’s transitional government in Bamako.
“I would like to reveal an operation of great importance which was carried out on October 30 in Mali by the Barkhane force, which was able to neutralize more than 50 jihadists,” Parly said on Mali state television. The minister was referring to the French-led anti-jihadist Operation Barkhane.
Around 30 motorcycles were destroyed, the French minister said. The operation was launched after a drone detected a “very large” motorcycle caravan in the “three borders” area, he added.
When the jihadists tried to escape, two Mirage jets were sent in, along with a drone to launch missiles on the insurgents, according to Parly.
Four terrorists have also been captured, military spokesman Colonel Frederic Barbry told reporters, adding that explosives and a suicide vest were found. The group had been “about to attack [an army] position in the region,” he said.
Another operation targeting Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) in the Greater Sahara was also underway, with a total of 3,000 soldiers involved, Barbry added.
France has more than 5,000 troops in Mali and neighboring countries in West Africa’s Sahel region to fight the jihadists since it first intervened in 2013. The United Nations has deployed around 13,000 troops in Mali as part of its peacekeeping mission.
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