The French and Malian armies eliminated around 100 jihadists in central Mali during Operation “Eclipse”, carried out from January 2 to 20 by the French force “Barkhane” and the Malian army, the latter reported on Tuesday. January. ” Around twenty [de djihadistes ont été] captured, as well as several seized motorcycles and war material “, adds the Malian army, in a press release.
Paris had affirmed last week that around twenty jihadists had been killed in mid-January by the French military and their local partners in northern Burkina Faso, in the area known as the “three borders” (Burkina, Mali, Niger), during an operation carried out in coordination with “Eclipse”.
“At the heart of the anthill”
In Mali, it was “Kick the enemy out of his areas of refuge” in the Douentza-Hombori-Boulkessi sector, a region of sparse forests and bush dominated by a rocky massif, where elements of the Support Group for Islam and Muslims (GSIM, or Jnim in Arabic) are located, a jihadist alliance affiliated with Al-Qaida. Other groups, linked for their part to the Islamic State (IS) organization, are also present in the region.
Paris is fighting the jihadists in the Sahel with 5,100 men, deployed since 2013 alongside the armies of the G5 Sahel (Mauritania, Mali, Chad, Burkina Faso, Niger). These armies, however, rarely claim such an important human toll in a single operation against groups that number in their hard core no more than a few thousand men.
The sector remains however dangerous for the Malian and French forces. At the end of December, three French soldiers were killed there by the explosion of an artisanal mine near Hombori, an attack claimed by the GSIM, while six Malian soldiers were killed last weekend, during night attacks simultaneous against the two military camps in the area, in Boulkessy and Mondoro. The attackers had been repulsed with the help of the French air force, a response which had “Around thirty dead on the terrorist side”, according to Bamako. “With“ Eclipse ”, [les soldats] are really at the heart of the anthill “, said Tuesday, a Western diplomatic source in the Malian capital.
These anti-jihadist operations are not immune to controversy. The Malian army chief of staff ordered an investigation in mid-January into the circumstances of the death of three jihadists taken prisoner during their transfer to a military camp.
And several NGOs are calling for an independent investigation into a French airstrike near the village of Bounti. Villagers and a Fulani association claim that this strike killed around 20 inhabitants during a wedding on January 3. The French and Malian authorities insist, for their part, that the French fighter planes targeted and eliminated dozens of jihadists and that there were no marriages, women or children.
New Takuba Force
Paris “I hope that the controversy will have subsided as the N’Djamena summit approaches [les 15 et 16 février], where the results of the operation will undoubtedly be highlighted ”, a UN source told AFP on Tuesday. This summit, a year after that in Pau, where the French and Sahelian leaders decided to intensify their struggle in the “three borders” area, should make it possible to take stock of the French commitment. French President Emmanuel Macron has already warned that he was counting “Adjust efforts” French in the region.
To lighten its burden, Paris relies heavily on the new Takuba force, a group of European special forces tasked with accompanying the Malian army in combat. The men leading the transition in Mali, set up after the coup d’état that overthrew President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta in August, will also be able to take advantage at this summit of the formal dissolution, announced on Tuesday, of the Committee. National for the Salvation of the People (CNSP), the body formed by the putschist military.
The transitional government will also be able to boast of participating in the implementation of the 2015 peace agreements, an essential factor for a return to stability in Mali. After integrating ex-rebels into the government, a ministerial delegation went on Monday for the first time in months to Kidal, a stronghold of ex-Tuareg separatist rebels in the north of the country.