Finally, the French troops have allegedly destroyed an Al-Qaeda convoy in Niger that was transporting weapons from Libya to Mali, and also captured some of the group’s fighters, the French presidency has said.
The office of President Francois Hollande said in a statement on Friday that its forces, in cooperation with local authorities, had destroyed a convoy in northern Niger and captured fighters from al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).
“The intervention enabled a large quantity of weapons to be seized and to neutralise a number of those in the convoy, including some who were captured,” the statement read.
AQIM has been present in the western Sahel region of north Africa since it was pushed out of Algeria.
French troops have been based in the Sahel region since January 2013, to hunt down fighters, including AQIM who have seized control of Mali’s northern desert cities.
French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian has said around 3,000 French soldiers are part of a wide counter-terrorism operation, code-named Barkhane, in five countries along the southern rim of the Sahara.
Operation Barkhane, named after a crescent-shaped sand dune, involves the use of drones, helicopters, fighter jets, armoured vehicles and transport planes against fighters in Burkina Faso, Mali, Chad, Niger and Mauritania.