Politics France: Drone strikes kill at least 40 jihadists in...

France: Drone strikes kill at least 40 jihadists in Niger

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Niamey, Niger (AP) – French drone strikes killed at least 40 Islamist militants traveling on motorcycles near the Niger border with Burkina Faso earlier this week, the French military said on Thursday.

In a statement, the French military described the attacks as Operation Barkhane, a “new strategic victory” for France’s counter-terrorism efforts in the Sahel region of Africa.

“Intelligence obtained from Nigerian units in contact with the column confirmed that the motorcycles belonged to an armed terrorist group moving between Burkina Faso and Niger,” Barkhane said in a statement.

“In close coordination with Niger’s armed forces, the Barkhane force has carried out a number of attacks against the column, killing at least 40 militants.

The Niger government has also issued a statement saying jihadists were killed after an attack that killed eight security forces in Niger earlier this week.

In addition to France reorganizing its military efforts in the vast Sahel region where drone strikes have occurred in Niger, a vast area south of the Sahara Desert, where it was once a colonial power and still maintains strong economic ties. Niger has become a more loyal ally for the past two years after military coups overthrew the democratically elected presidents of neighboring Mali and Burkina Faso.

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    Earlier this year, France announced that it was withdrawing all its forces from Mali after nine years of French military leadership in an effort to expel Islamic militants from Timbuktu and other bases in northern Mali. The decision to secede from Mali came amid growing hostility to the French armed presence and tensions with the country’s leader, who led two uprisings over a period of nine months to consolidate his power.

    France says it plans to relocate its forces from Mali to other countries in the Sahel region, including Niger. Terrorist violence is on the rise in Sahel, including in Burkina Faso, a southwestern neighbor of Niger, battling rising jihadi attacks..

    ___ Docker, assisted by Krista Larson, author of the Associated Press in Senegal.

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