PARIS (AP) — French military forces fighting Islamic extremists in West Africa killed more than 50 jihadists and detained four in an operation last week in Mali, French officials said.
Defense Minister Florence Parly tweeted Monday night that the French force in the region also confiscated weapons and equipment from the fighters in the operation last Friday, which she said “shows once again that terrorist groups cannot act with impunity.”
Drones monitoring the region in northern Mali spotted a convoy of suspected fighters on motorcycles, prompting France to launch the operation, first with airstrikes and then with a ground operation by French commandos, according to an official with the French military headquarters.
Separately, a larger military operation has been under way for several weeks in the area near Mali’s border with Burkina Faso and Niger, said the official, who was not authorized to be publicly named according to military policy.
Parly visited Mali’s capital, Bamako, on Monday and Tuesday, and met with the head of the transitional government. After Mali’s president was ousted in August by a military junta, she urged democratic elections “as quickly as possible” and said the current leadership promised to ensure them.
France, which has suffered repeated deadly Islamic extremist attacks, has thousands of troops in a force called Barkhane in West Africa to help fight extremist groups there.
Islamic extremist rebels were forced from power in northern Mali after a 2013 French-led military operation, but regrouped in the desert and now launch frequent attacks on the Malian army and its allies.
Meanwhile, Mali has faced months of political upheaval. Under international pressure, the junta appointed a civilian-led government to lead the country through an 18-month transition period to new elections.
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