Malian and French forces supported by Tigre helicopters and Mirage 2000 fighter jets destroyed a “terrorist camp” after they were attacked in the Ndaki region, the French defense ministry said on Thursday, October 18.
On October 16, Malian Armed Forces (FAMa) supported by French soldiers deployed to Operation Barkhane were conducting reconnaissance in the Ndaki area, about 200 km (125 miles) southwest of Gao, when they were attacked by around 50 “members of an armed terrorist group,” some of them on motorcycles, the release said.
Ndaki is in Liptako-Gourma, the border region between Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso, commonly known as the Gourma.
Malian soldiers fixed the enemy, and Operation Barkhane deployed a Tigre helicopter patrol that was quickly reinforced by two Mirage 2000 fighter jets.
When they arrived, the Tigre helicopters were fired upon with light weapons and RPG rocket launchers, and they and the Mirage 2000s delivered counter-fire.
Fierce fighting continued on the ground, suggesting that “either the site is important or leaders are among the attackers, and the fighters are trying to protect them,” the release said.
A second Mirage patrol later relieved the first, and two groups of mountain commandos were sent as ground reinforcements in the early afternoon. Malian and French soldiers then secured a wooded area where the enemy appeared to have retreated to.
The following day after the militants apparently left the area, the joint force found a single body and discovered a camp, which they destroyed. About 15 motorcycles and a pickup truck were also seized and destroyed, along with a “large stock of equipment for the construction of IEDs.”
“Emergency coordination between ground troops and Barkhane’s aircraft allowed the ground troops to prevail,” the release concluded.
On October 17, Nord Sud Journal reported that Malian troops attached to the G5 Sahel Joint Force along with members of the Tuareg GATIA group had conducted an operation in the Gourma near Ndaki earlier this week, although this was later refuted.
According to the report, a source said that the forest is a stronghold of Abdul Hakim al-Sahrawi, a senior Islamic State in the Greater Sahara commander.
A security source told Nord Sud Journal that a Malian soldier and two GATIA fighters were injured.
Islamic extremists linked to al-Qaeda took control of the desert north of Mali in early 2012, exploiting a Taureg separatist uprising. France began a military intervention the next year that evolved into the current Operation Barkhane deployment with a mandate for counter-terror operations across the Sahel region, encompassing Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger.
Around 4,500 French personnel are deployed to Operation Barkhane, and they work alongside the G5 Sahel joint counter-terrorism force, as well as peacekeepers deployed to the United Nations Minusma stabilization mission in Mali.
On October 17, a French soldier died in accident while performing maintenance on a truck while deployed to Operation Barkhane in Mali.
France’s Minister for the Armed Forces Florence Parly said on October 8 while on a visit to Chad that the G5 Sahel joint force has scheduled three operations in coming weeks.
On October 7, the French armed forces conducted an air operation near Pama in Burkina Faso involving Gazelle and Tigre helicopters after a Burkina Faso soldier was killed and another injured after a military vehicle was hit by a roadside bomb near Kabonga.
That air operation was the second in Burkina Faso in the space of four days. On October 3, two French Mirage 2000 fighter aircraft struck a convoy of ‘terrorists’ on motorcycles near the Inata gold mine in the northern Soum province.