The French President Emmanuel Macron on December 21 said that the French forces have killed 33 Islamic State extremists in central Mali and released two Malian paramilitary police officers who were held hostage. The announce was reportedly made on the second day of Macron's three-day trip to West Africa that has been dominated by the growing threat posed by jihadist groups. In a tweet, Macron also added that he was “proud of our soldiers who protect us”.
President Macron said, “This morning, thanks to the commitment of our troops from the Barkhane force, we were able to neutralize thirty-three terrorists in the Sahel, take a prisoner and release two Malian gendarmes held hostage. Proud of our soldiers who protect us”.
Ce matin, grâce à l’engagement de nos troupes de la force Barkhane, nous avons pu neutraliser au Sahel trente trois terroristes, faire un prisonnier et libérer deux gendarmes maliens retenus en otage. Fier de nos soldats qui nous protègent.— Emmanuel Macron (@EmmanuelMacron) December 21, 2019
According to international media reports, France has approximately 4,500 military personnel in West and Central Africa which was ruled by France during colonialism. In recent years, the militants have regrouped and pushed further into central Mali as French-led military operation in 2013 to dislodge Islamic extremists from power in several major towns across Mali's north. On December 20 French President Macron reportedly met with French military personnel stationed in Ivory Coast, which shares a long border with volatile Mali and Burkina Faso and the next day he highlighted the new effort being launched in which the International Academy to Fight Terrorism will reportedly focus on regional strategies and training those involved in the fight against extremism.
The former colonial power, France intervened in Mali nearly six years ago to eradicate Islamic State forces who were present in the north and used swathes of the country as a launchpad for its attacks across the desert region. Since then, Paris has deployed its troops in the area as a part of its Barkhane counter-terrorism operations. The Western powers have also provided funding to the regional force constituting soldiers from Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, Chad, and Mauritania. The deaths of soldiers on Monday, bring the total count of the army killed in the Sahel to 28. France has reportedly gained frustration that it is receiving the burnt of operations on the ground even though other European countries have provided logistical support, trainers, and some special forces.