Mali militants killed by French soldiers


French soldiers killed more than 30 Islamist militants in Mali in three separate operations targeting al Qaeda and Islamic State-linked groups, France’s armed forces said.

France, the former colonial power in a number of West African countries, has 4 500 soldiers in the region in its counter-terrorism task force Operation Barkhane. The United Nations has a 13 000-strong peacekeeping operation in Mali.

In Gourma region, French Barkhane force soldiers killed 20 militants and destroyed several vehicles, while in Liptako region, a stronghold of Islamic State, 10 more were killed, the army said.

The operations involved a drone, warplanes and two helicopters, it said.

In December, French forces killed 33 Islamist militants in Mali using attack helicopters, ground troops and a drone near the border with Mauritania where a group linked to al Qaeda operates.

France plans to deploy 600 more soldiers in the fight against militants in the Sahel. The reinforcements would be sent to the area between Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger.