French soldiers target Islam militants in Mali

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The French military has targeted Islamist militants in northern Mali near the border with Algeria and took 15 militants “out of action”, an armed forces spokesman said.

It was not immediately clear if the operation was connected to the pursuit of assailants who killed four US soldiers in an ambush on October 4 in western Niger, about 400 kilometres south.

The French operation in Abeibara took place overnight on Monday and targeted members of Islamist militant group Ansar Dine, the spokesman said.

It involved French Mirage jets, attack helicopters and forces on the ground, he added without providing details on whether any of the 15 militants targeted were killed or wounded.

France intervened in Mali to ward off an offensive by Islamist militants that began in 2012. Around 4,000 of its troops remain in the region as part of Operation Barkhane, where they work alongside around 10,000 UN peacekeepers in Mali.

The US deaths have drawn attention to counter-terror efforts in the arid Sahel region where an Islamist insurgency involving countless armed groups has been intensifying for years, regularly killing local soldiers.