France says dozens of jihadists ‘neutralised’ in Mali ops
French soldiers “neutralised” around 50 in a series of operations in Mali this month, the army said Friday as it seeks to quell a years-long insurgency in the West African nation.
The operations were carried out near Mopti in central Mali, where a group of several dozen fighters declared their allegiance to the Islamic State group in a video released in late January, the first such declaration in the region.
The army added that a helicopter assault accompanied by drone strikes northwest of the city on February 9-10 killed a senior leader of the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS).
Overall, the chief of staff said it had also destroyed around 30 motorcycles and two pickup trucks, and seized weapons along with cellphones and other electronic equipment.
As a rule the army does not give a precise breakdown of how many people are killed, wounded or captured, using only terms such as neutralised or “taken out of action.”
France’s 4,500-member Barkhane operation has been stationed in five Sahel countries since 2013 to help train and assist local forces against the Islamic rebellion.
The Barkhane force has stepped up its raids in central Mali since December, in line with France’s focus on the so-called “three borders” region covering Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger.
The area is thought to be a stronghold for ISGS, considered the biggest threat among the several jihadist groups across the vast semi-desert region.
This month, France said it would add 600 soldiers to the Barkhane detachment in response to a steady increase in violence in recent months.