The French government informed that its forces killed more than 50 jihadists aligned to Al-Qaeda in air strikes in central Mali.
The offensive took place on Friday in an area near the borders of Burkina Faso and Niger, where government troops are struggling to rout an Islamic insurgency, French Defence Minister Florence Parly said after meeting members of Mali's transitional government.
“On October 30 in Mali, the Barkhane force conducted an operation that neutralized more than 50 jihadists and confiscated arms and material,” Ms. Parly said, referring to the French-led anti-jihadist Operation Barkhane. She added that around 30 motorcycles were destroyed.
Ms. Parly, who earlier met Niger President Mahamadou Issoufou and her Nigerien counterpart Issoufou Katambe before heading to Bamako, said the operation was launched after a drone detected a “very large” motorcycle caravan in the “three borders” area.
When the jihadists moved under trees to try and escape surveillance, the French force sent in two Mirage jets and a drone to launch missiles, leading to the “neutralization” of the insurgents, Ms. Parly said.
Military spokesman Colonel Frederic Barbry said that “four terrorists have been captured”.
Explosives and a suicide vest had been found, he told a reporters in a conference call, saying that the group had been “about to attack (an army) position in the region”.
Mr. Barbry also said that another operation, this time targeting the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara, was also underway, with a total of 3,000 soldiers.
The results of the operation, launched about a month ago, would be announced in the coming days, he said.
Ms. Parly said the action marked a “significant blow” to the Ansarul Islam group which she said was linked to Al-Qaeda via the GSIM alliance led by Iyad Ag Ghaly.
Ghaly has emerged as a top jihadist leader in the Sahel since the death of the Qaeda commander Abdelmalek Droukdel, who was killed by French forces in Mali in June.