The French government announced on Monday that its military forces had killed more than 50 jihadists linked to Al-Qaeda in air strikes conducted in central Mali.
The operation took place on Friday in an area near the borders of Burkina Faso and Niger, where government troops have been fighting against Islamic insurgency, French Defence Minister Florence Parly said on Monday.
"On October 30 in Mali, the Barkhane force conducted an operation that neutralised more than 50 jihadists and confiscated arms and material," Parly said, referring to the French-led anti-jihadist Operation Barkhane.
Drone Spotted 'Very Large' Motorcycle Convoy
Parly added that the operation was conducted after a drone detected a "very large" motorcycle caravan moving through the "three borders" area of the West African country.
When the jihadists tried to hide under trees to try and escape surveillance, the French air force unit sent in two Mirage jets and a drone to launch missiles, leading to the "neutralization" of the insurgents. Around 30 motorcycles were destroyed in the air strike, according to Parly.
Parly said that the airstrike was a "significant blow" to the Ansarul Islam group, which has ties to Al-Qaeda via the GSIM alliance led by Iyad Ag Ghaly. Ghaly has emerged as the top jihadist leader in the Sahel region since the death of the Al-Qaeda commander Abdelmalek Droukdel, who was killed in a French special operation in Mali in June.
Jihadists Had Plans to Attack an Army Unit
Military spokesman Colonel Frederic Barbry said that four terrorists were captured in the operation and troops also recovered explosives and a suicide vest. According to Barbry, the group had plans to carry out an attack on an army unit in the region.
Barbry also said that another operation, this time targeting the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara, was also underway, with a total of 3,000 soldiers. The results of the operation, launched about a month ago, would be announced in the coming days, he added.
Al-Qaeda Threatens Macron, Justifies Terror Attacks in France
On Monday, Al-Qaeda threatened French President Emmanuel Macron over his recent comments on Islam and justified the killings of people who insult the Prophet Mohammed.
Macron defended the publication of Prophet Mohammed's caricatures on the grounds of freedom of speech and expression which has angered several radical groups and Muslim nations across the world.
"Killing anyone who insults the prophet is the right of each and every Muslim," the terror group said in a statement, before adding that it would seek "revenge" over Macron's remarks, calling him "young and inexperienced, with a little brain" and saying he had "insisted on offending the Prophet."
The controversy began after a French teacher Samuel Paty was beheaded in a Parisian suburb by an Islamic extremist after showing cartoons of the Prophet published by the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo to students during a class on freedom of speech