BAMAKO (AFP) – The Malian army said it had killed 19 extremists in operations northeast of the capital Bamako that were supported by European special forces.
A statement by the armed forces chief of staff late on Tuesday said operations in the Timbuktu, Segou, Mopti and Bandiagara areas successfully targetted “terrorists” – a term typically used to designate extremists who have led a bloody decade-old insurgency.
Fifteen “bases” were broken up, 34 motorbikes were seized and 15 were destroyed, and 37 mobile phones were taken, it said.
Eight people in the Timbuktu area were arrested, it said, adding that the operations had unfolded over several days.
The troops worked alongside European special forces in a mission called Takuba, it said – a deployment whose future is clouded by a row between France and the military junta in Bamako.
The dispute led President Emmanuel Macron to announce last Thursday that French troops who have been fighting the extremists for the last nine years would leave within months.
The quarrel dates to the overthrow of Mali’s elected president, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, by disgruntled army officers in August 2020. The junta has reneged on a pledge to hold fast-track elections and placed France under pressure by reportedly hiring mercenaries from Russia’s Wagner group.
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) slapped Mali with hefty economic and diplomatic sanctions on January 9 for delaying the return to civilian rule. Last Saturday, the Malian army said eight soldiers and 57 rebels had been killed in clashes in the northern region of Archam, near the border with restive Burkina Faso and Niger.