More than 20 jihadists killed in the Sahel by French forces

French troops deployed in Barkhane continue to harass jihadist groups in the tri-border region
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AFP/DOMINIQUE FAGET  -   French soldiers of the Operation Barkhane detachment at the French base in the northern Malian town of Gao

The General Staff of the French Armed Forces has again announced a series of operations against what it calls TAG, the Armed Terrorist Groups, which are present in the Sahel region. Changes are on the horizon in terms of the fight against jihadism in this region, but in the meantime, Operation Barkhane is trying to continue its successful counter-terrorism operations, especially in the Liptako-Gourma region.

Over the past weekend, French forces carried out several operations in which more than twenty jihadists were killed, along with the destruction of a large number of motorbikes that are often used for their movements in this desert region.

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AFP/ PASCAL GUYOT - A Eurocopter Tiger helicopter (Eurocopter EC665 Tiger) lands at Mopti airport in Sevare

El primer ataque se produjo en las inmediaciones de la localidad de Boulikessi en la frontera maliense con Burkina Faso, donde la inteligencia francesa descubrió un movimiento de una treintena de motocicletas. Varios helicópteros Tigre atacaron al grupo, abatiendo al menos a 10 yihadistas y destruyendo varias decenas de sus vehículos. Durante ese mismo día, un dron MQ-9 Reaper del Ejército francés, atacó un vehículo que transportaba también a varios yihadistas y que se dirigía a la localidad de N'Daki.

Finalmente, el domingo, aunque esta vez en Burkina Faso, un nuevo grupo de yihadistas fue detectado por las fuerzas francesas, que tras un ataque terrestre con apoyo también de medios aéreos, se neutralizó al menos a otra decena de terroristas abatidos y con una gran cantidad de material incautado.

The first attack took place near the town of Boulikessi on the Malian border with Burkina Faso, where French intelligence discovered a movement of some thirty motorbikes. Tiger helicopters attacked the group, killing at least 10 jihadists and destroying dozens of their vehicles. On the same day, a French army MQ-9 Reaper drone attacked a vehicle carrying several jihadists and heading towards the village of N'Daki.

Finally, on Sunday, although this time in Burkina Faso, a new group of Jihadists was detected by French forces, and after a ground attack with air support, at least ten more terrorists were neutralised, killed and a large quantity of material seized.

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AFP/ PASCAL GUYOT - A French soldier from Operation Barkhane, an anti-terrorist mission in the Sahel, patrols while a Eurocopter Tiger helicopter (Eurocopter EC665 Tiger) operates a tactical flight in Mali

France once again demonstrates that the French presence in the Sahel region is key in the fight against terrorism, both in terms of resources and capabilities and in terms of experience. However, social rejection of the French presence in Mali continues to grow, and now also in French society, which has been shocked by the death of five soldiers and the wounding of five others in just a couple of weeks.

France is facing a growing rejection in society of its presence in the Sahel, or at least of such an important and costly presence in economic and human terms. Precisely for this reason, both Macron and Defence Minister Florece Parly have announced that the successes of recent months against several key players in the hierarchy of terrorist groups in the Sahel will allow for the withdrawal of the 600 troops with which the operation was strengthened just over a year ago, following the Pau summit.

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REUTERS/BENOIT TESSIER - French soldiers patrol in a BvS10 all-terrain armoured vehicle in the Gourma region during Operation Barkhane in Ndaki, Mali

Barkhane would thus return to the previous 4,500 troops, although this figure could also be progressively reduced. Thanks to Task Force Takuba, France is beginning to have more support on the ground, allowing it to share an important part of the work on the ground. Other countries such as the UK, Denmark, Germany and Spain were already supporting the French in one way or another, but only Estonia has so far contributed human resources. In their case, Estonian military personnel carried out the task of Force Protection at one of the French bases, although they have now also been integrated into the accompaniment work carried out by Task Force Takuba with the Malian armed forces.

As well as Estonia, according to Minister Parly, contingents from the Czech Republic and Sweden, the latter with around 150 troops and three helicopters, are already on the ground. They will be joined in the coming months by a large Italian contingent, with up to 200 troops and eight helicopters, but Greek, Portuguese, Hungarian and even Ukrainian support is also expected.

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AFP/ PHILIPPE DESMAZES - General view of the French army base in Gao, northern Mali, during Operation Barkhane

This gradual arrival of human and material resources from European countries will enable France to reduce its presence, and thus its economic and human costs. However, Paris will continue to lead the Sahel presence. At the same time, EUTM-Mali is in the process of expanding its capabilities and locations, and is now able to move to other parts of the region, including outside Mali, to meet the training needs of the other Sahel countries.

Likewise, we should not lose sight of next month's summit in Djamena, Niger, where the leaders of the G5-Sahel, together with France, will discuss the expansion of the role currently played by the G5 Joint Force, some 5,000 troops, which is expected to play a greater role in the fight against terrorism in parallel with the reduction of the weight carried by France, allowing the Sahel countries themselves to be in charge of ensuring their own security.