DAKAR (Reuters) – At least 30 Islamist militants were killed and dozens of vehicles and weapons destroyed during joint operations between the French-led Takuba task force and Malian soldiers last week, the French Army Ministry said in a statement on Tuesday.
During the main operation on Feb. 3, a column of fighters on motorbikes was spotted by a drone, the statement said.
The engagement of a Mirage 2000 patrol fighter jet in support of European and Malian forces deployed on the ground “led to the putting out of action of about twenty terrorists,” the statement said.
It added that a vehicle with dozens of kilograms of explosives, weapons and motorbikes, mostly used by the fighters in raids in the West Africa Sahel region, were destroyed.
The joint operations from Feb. 1 to Feb. 6 coincide with tensions in relations between Mali and France, and has forced Paris and other European allies to question their continued military presence in Mali.
The European allies are set to decide by next week how to continue their fight against Islamist militants in Mali, describing the situation as “untenable” https://www.reuters.com/world/africa/france-partners-consulting-mali-operations-amid-standoff-with-junta-2022-01-28.
In a verbal attack on Monday https://www.reuters.com/world/africa/relations-fray-mali-accuses-france-splitting-country-spying-2022-02-08, Choguel Maiga, who was appointed interim Prime Minister following a coup last year, accused France’s military of deliberately dividing the West African country and of committing espionage during its fight against Islamist militants.
The French army ministry said in its statement that the operations in the tri-border area of Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso showed the high level of cooperation as well as the effectiveness of combat partnership between the Malian army and the European task force that included Estonian special forces.
(Reporting by John Irish; Writing by Bate Felix; editing by Grant McCool)