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Six suspected jihadists killed in French air strike in Mali: Military

  • News Desk

    Agence France-Presse

Paris, France   /   Thu, December 20, 2018   /   08:06 pm
Six suspected jihadists killed in French air strike in Mali: Military Malian Lieutenant Gouassou Diara speaks with French captain Gauthier on November 1, 2017 in central Mali, in the border zone with Burkina Faso and Niger as a joint anti-jihadist force linking countries in the Sahel began operations on November 1. The world's newest joint international force, the five-nation G5 Sahel plans to number up to 5,000 military, police and civilian troops by March 2018. The 5,000 will comprise two battalions each from Mali and Niger and one each from Burkina Faso, Chad and Mauritania. (AFP/Daphné Benoit)

At least six suspected members of a jihadist group were killed overnight in a French air strike in southeastern Mali, a French military spokesman said Thursday.

A surveillance drone followed eight "members of an armed terrorist group" as they crossed the border on motorcycles from Niger into Mali, Colonel Patrik Steiger said.

A French fighter jet attacked the group, with ground forces then intervening, in an operation that claimed the lives of at least six of them, he added

Jihadists in the region have mostly swapped pick-ups for more inconspicuous motorbikes, which allow them to travel on rough roads and tracks through the desert.

The operation revealed however that even these bikers are being monitored from the air.

The French military did not specify which jihadist group the men belonged to but a regional Al-Qaeda affiliate has long been active in the region.

France helped Malian forces defeat jihadist insurgents that took control of the three main towns in the country's north in 2012, but large swathes of the hinterland remain beyond the government's control.

France, the former colonial ruler, has deployed a 4,500-member 'Barkhane' force in the region to conduct counter-terrorism operations.

Until now the force has intervened mainly in Mali, while also focussing on training troops in Burkina Faso and the other nations of the G5 Sahel military alliance -- Chad, Mauritania and Niger.

However, the insurgents have progressively expanded their reach, carrying out attacks on government forces, notably in Burkina Faso and Niger.