France’s armed forces said Friday they had killed around 15 jihadists near Mali’s border with Burkina Faso, where an al-Qaeda-linked group is active.
Two operations took place at the weekend in the Boulikessi sector in central Mali, military headquarters said.
On Saturday, “French soldiers identified an armed terrorist group on motorbikes and guided an aircraft to carry out a strike,” Frederic Barbry told journalists.
The commandos spotted another armed group the following day and called in reconnaissance and attack helicopters to provide support.
“Around 15 jihadists were neutralized and four were arrested in these operations,” while troops seized weapons, motorbikes, and materials used for making roadside bombs, he said.
The central region is a reputed stronghold of the Group to Support Islam and Muslims (GSIM).
France’s military role there was placed in the spotlight earlier this month when several residents in the village of Bounti said about 20 people in a wedding party had been killed in a strike by a helicopter.
It occurred on January 3, they said, near where French forces said they carried out an airstrike on jihadists using a fighter jet.
France’s military has insisted it struck jihadists, ruling out the possibility of any mistake.
The region is the epicenter of a deadly Islamist offensive that began in northern Mali in 2012 and then advanced into neighboring Burkina Faso and Niger, inflaming ethnic tensions along the way.
Independent confirmation of reports in this area is difficult, given the remoteness and danger.