French special operations forces join the fray in Africa


French commandos, likely from the General Directorate for External Security, or DGSE, and Mauritanian troops raided an al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb camp in Mali in search of a French citizen kidnapped by the terror group. From Reuters:

A Mauritanian security source said the raids had continued some 200 km (125 miles) into Mali after Thursday’s pre-dawn attack on a group of Islamists who are believed to be holding the 78-year-old French hostage in Niger’s desert Sahel region.

The French Defense Ministry source said the operation was launched after AQIM failed to provide proof that Germaneau was alive or engage in negotiations over him. The operation follows calls for better international cooperation against AQIM, which was previously focused on Algeria but now has two factions that are increasingly active in remote desert regions of Mauritania, Mali and Niger.

AQIM released a picture and audio of Germaneau in May in which he said he had a serious medical condition. Retired engineer Germaneau was kidnapped in April and believed to be in the hands of Abdelhamid Abou Zeid, leader of the more hardline of two AQIM factions operating in the Sahara. AQIM had set France a deadline of next week to agree to a prisoner swap, saying it would otherwise kill him.

Paris has said it gave technical and logistical support to Mauritanian forces in an operation aimed at preventing an attack by AQIM on Mauritania. The French Defense Ministry source said between 20-30 French operatives had taken part.

The French were dealing with a deadline: on July 11, al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb had given France a 15-day extension to exchange prisoners, otherwise the terror group would execute Germaneau. “The mujahedeen [holy warriors] decided to grant a final extension to France that will not be repeated and will not exceed 15 days, starting on Monday,” AQIM’s online statement read.

It is interesting that Malian troops did not participate in the raid that sought to rescue Germaneau. In October 2009, the US government announced it would donate $5 million worth of trucks, communication devices, equipment, and clothing to Mali in an effort to boost the sub-Saharan government’s ability to combat Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. Numerous Westerners have been kidnapped in Mali, and the Malian government has been willing to exchange captive al Qaeda fighters to secure their release.


Abu Musab Abdulwadud, the head of al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, said his terror group executed French hostage Michel Germaneau to avenge a raid by French commandos and Mautanian forces in Mali. “As a quick response to the despicable French act, we confirm that we have killed hostage Germaneau in revenge for our six brothers who were killed in the treacherous operation,” Abdulwadud said in a audiotape (Al Jazeera).

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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  • Phineas says:

    Regarding the non-participation of Malian forces, the French are the former colonial power and know the country well. Is it possible they had information that elements of the Malian military weren’t reliable, perhaps infiltrated with Islamists, similar to the Pakistani military?

  • Neo says:

    Good for the French and Mauritanians. The other bonus is this will hardly register in the international press. The story will be there but it will be under the radar for the professional political critics.


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