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23 Dec, 2019 17:23

France kills 7 in first armed drone strike as anti-jihadist mission in Mali drags on

France kills 7 in first armed drone strike as anti-jihadist mission in Mali drags on

France’s ministry of defense said it has carried out its first armed drone strike, killing seven suspected militants in Mali, in what is an increasingly problematic mission for the European state.

Jihadist militants aligned with Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) and Al-Qaeda, among other groups, have been carrying out a series of major attacks and kidnappings in the Sahel region for years. The fighters have also used the area as a staging ground to prepare for attacks elsewhere, including Europe.

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According to a statement from the French defense ministry on Monday, the drone strike was launched on Saturday; French commandos came under attack from a group of terrorists on motorbikes, and the Reaper drone was sent in to support them. Confirmation of the drone strike comes just days after the ministry confirmed its testing of armed drones at the Niamey air base in Niger.

President Emmanuel Macron was visiting neighboring Ivory Coast at the time of the strike. In Abidjan on December 21, he announced French troops had that day killed 33 terrorists and taken one prisoner in central Mali, while also freeing two Malian police officers who were held hostage.

France began deploying troops in the Sahel region back in 2013 and, out of a 4,500-strong force, 41 French soldiers have died. Last month, 13 were killed in a single incident when two helicopters collided during a combat mission. It was the single greatest loss of French military lives in over 35 years.

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