A French counter-terrorism offensive in rebel-infested northern Mali ended on Friday with 11 Islamist militants killed and a French soldier wounded, military sources inside the operation told AFP.
“The French military operation in the Timbuktu region is completed. Eleven terrorists were killed. A French soldier was wounded but his life is not in danger,” said an official from France’s Operation Serval military mission in its former colony.
A Malian military source confirmed the information, saying “the French have done a good job, because the jihadists, notably from Libya, are reorganising to occupy the region and dig in permanently.”
The sources said military equipment and phones belonging to Islamist militants were seized by French troops.
The operation took place a few hundred kilometres (miles) north of the desert caravan town of Timbuktu, according to a Malian security source.
The French army has been conducting two counter-terrorism operations, around Timbuktu and in the far-northern Ifoghas mountains, according to military sources in the capital Bamako.
A foreign source told AFP on Thursday troops were targeting the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO), the Signatories in Blood — an armed unit founded by fugitive jihadist commander Mokhtar Belmokhtar — and fighters loyal to slain warlord Abdelhamid Abou Zeid.
Algerians Abou Zeid and Belmokhtar were leaders of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), which, along with MUJAO and other Islamist groups, occupied northern Mali in 2012 before being driven out by French-led troops.[Full article]