France kills 11 militants in end to Mali operation


Sun, Jan 26, 2014 - Page 6

A French counterterrorism 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 reporters.

The action came as Paris steps up its campaign against armed groups linked to al-Qaeda in Mali’s vast desert, following the former French colony’s return to democratic government after a coup plunged the country into chaos.

“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,” an official from France’s Operation Serval military mission in Mali said.

A foreign source told media on Thursday that troops were targeting the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa, the Signatories in Blood — founded by fugitive jihadist leader Mokhtar Belmokhtar — and fighters loyal to slain warlord Abdelhamid Abou Zeid.

A Malian military source confirmed the information, saying “the French have done a good job, because the jihadists — notably from Libya — are reorganizing to occupy the region and dig in permanently.”

However, French Minister of Defense Jean-Yves Le Drian on Thursday said “not everything is finished, the terrorist risk in this part of Africa remains high. We will keep 1,000 soldiers who are carrying out counterterrorism missions.”