2018/15/11- French forces operating in Mali killed seven suspected jihadists after a recent nighttime raid, possibly including a top leader in an alliance of insurgents linked to Al-Qaeda, the French army said Thursday.
Al-Mansour Ag Alkassim, the chief of a wing of the Group to Support Islam and Muslims (GSIM), was « very probably » among those killed in the operation the night of Sunday to Monday, army spokesman Patrik Steiger told AFP.
The GSIM, which the US added to its list of foreign terrorist organisations in September, has been carrying out attacks across the arid Sahel expanses of Western Africa over the past two years.
Alkassim, operating mainly in northern Mali, has been sought by the authorities for years.
France has deployed the 4,500-member Barkhane force to the region in a bid to train local forces and help repel the attacks.
Most recently the GSIM claimed responsibility for a suicide attack where killed three in the northern city of Gao on Monday.
The recent raid came after a Reaper surveillance drone located the group in the Gourma region, between the cities of Gao and Timbuktu, and French forces flew in by helicopter, Steiger said.
After the firefight, the soldiers discovered both light arms and heavy weapons, and equipment for making improvised explosive devices (IEDs), he said, calling it a « significant blow » against the group.
France helped Malian forces stave off a jihadist insurgency that took control of large parts of the north in 2012, but large swathes of the country still remain out of the government’s control.
Sahel-Elite – Photo: A soldier with France’s 4,500-member Barkhane force on patrol in Mali in November 2017 (AFP)