Mali conflict: Macron says 33 ‘terrorists’ killed by French troops
French forces have killed 33 militants in an operation in Mali, according to President Emmanuel Macron.
Mr Macron made the announcement on a visit to Ivory Coast, where he reiterated France’s commitment to fighting jihadists in the region.
It comes weeks after 13 French troops died in a helicopter collision in Mali in the biggest single-day loss of life for its military since the 1980s.
Thousands of French troops have been deployed in Mali since 2013.
Its involvement came after Islamist militants overran parts of the north. With the help of France, Mali’s army has recaptured the territory, but insecurity continues and violence has spread to neighbouring countries.
Some 4,500 French troops serve as part of Operation Barkhane in support of the forces of Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Burkina Faso and Chad.
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Mr Macron said the “terrorists” were killed in an operation on Saturday in Mali’s Mopti region.
“This morning, thanks to an engagement by our soldiers and the Barkhane forces, we were able to neutralise 33 terrorists, take one prisoner and free two Malian gendarmes who had been held hostage,” he said.
France’s army command said the operation took place overnight near the Mauritanian border.
Mr Macron made the announcement in a speech in Ivory Coast, where he has been celebrating an early Christmas with French troops.
He vowed on Friday to work to give “new force” to the fight against Islamist militants in Africa’s Sahel – an arid region below the Sahara desert.
It came as West African leaders began a meeting in Nigeria to discuss combating the spread of jihadist violence, which Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari described as the greatest threat to the region.
The UN special representative for West Africa and the Sahel, Mohamed Ibn Chambas, told leaders at the summit that military action alone could not end the violence, as he called for more to be done to help develop the region.
The leaders of five Sahel nations are expected to attend a summit in Paris in January, when Mr Macron said they would clarify the “political and strategic framework” of the operation against militants in the region.