Earlier today the French military confirmed its forces took part in a large-scale joint operation on April 1 against Islamic State-loyal militants in northern Mali, close to the border with Niger.
According to RFI, a French military spokesman said that “French commandos and Malian forces began a ‘reconnaissance and control operation’ in the Akabar region” on March 28, “working in liaison with the Nigerien army and a local self-defense group.” The combined forces came into contact with militants from the so-called Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS) on April 1. The following gunfight left at least 30 jihadists dead, according to the French spokesman.
The incident was first reported by the Tuareg alliance of the Imghad and Allies Self Defense Movement (GATIA) and the Movement for the Salvation of Azawad (MSA), both encompassing the aforementioned “local self-defense group.” In its statement, the alliance confirmed two separate clashes with ISGS militants and that at least 20 jihadists were killed.
This is not the first time French special forces have conducted a joint operation with the Tuareg groups against ISGS militants. On Feb. 22, the groups first clashed with the jihadists in a renewed offensive. RFI later reported that French troops coordinated with the Tuaregs in the battle.
The Islamic State-loyal forces led by Abu Walid al Sahrawi, referred to as “Islamic State in the Greater Sahara” (ISGS), have been linked to several attacks in the Tillabery region of Niger, the Sahel region of Burkina Faso, and in the Gao region of Mali. That includes last October’s aforementioned ambush in Niger and a suicide bombing on French troops in the Gao region earlier this year.