By Vatican News staff writer
French forces on Monday said that at least 50 persons linked to the Al-Qaeda terrorist group were killed in airstrikes in central Mali.
The French Air Force launched the offensive on Friday after a large number of people suspected to be Jihadist terrorists were spotted on motorcycles near the border between Burkina Faso and Niger – an area where government troops are struggling to rout an Islamic insurgency.
Media sources report that the terrorists hid under the trees to escape surveillance but French forces sent in fighter jets and a drone to launch missiles which led to the ‘neutralization’ of about 50 insurgents.
Military spokesperson Colonel Frederic Barbry said that at least four terrorists were apprehended during the operation. The French forces also confiscated arms and destroyed around thirty motorcycles.
Insurgency in Mali
Mali has been battling to contain an insurgency that began in 2012 in the north of the West-African nation by Tuareg separatists. Despite initial small successes by the Malian Army in repressing the insurgents, only a 2013 military intervention by France was able to deal a major blow to the extremists. Nonetheless, violent conflicts have continued, spreading from the north to central Mali.
Frustration over the seemingly endless insurgent attacks contributed to mass protests which led to an 18 August 2020 coup that ousted the government of former President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita.
The current Malian transitional government, appointed to rule for 18 months before organizing elections, appears to be taking steps to end the insurgency. In September, it was able to secure the release of hostages held by jihadist groups including Fr. Luigi Maccalli, an Italian missionary who was captured at the Burkina Faso border in September 2018.
Currently, the United Nations has about 15,000 personnel deployed in Mali as part of a peacekeeping mission called the Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA). Established in 2013 by the UN Security Council, the Mission is aimed at supporting the country’s transitional authorities in the stabilization of the country and the implementation of the transitional roadmap.