According to the French Armed Forces Ministry, between December 20 and January 5, more than 50 “terrorists” were killed in a series of operations in Mali. French President Emmanuel Macron previously announced that the first operation occurred between December 20 and 21. In a press release on January 9, it was stated that 33 terrorists were neutralized by several dozen commandos supported by Tigre helicopters in an area of central Mali’s Mopti region. The fight lasted several hours. On December 30, another helicopter assault took place in the Mopti region, leaving six terrorists “out of action.” The last operation occurred in the Serma area and took place over night on January 4 to 5. A dozen fighters were neutralized by an airstrike that was conducted by a Mirage 2000 jet.
There are many armed groups active in Mali, including the Islamic State. Many of the attacks, however, are attributed to JNIM, a support group for Islam and Muslims who has pledged allegiance to al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri. After Mali started struggling to contain a complex insurgency in 2012, France began its Operation Serval military intervention. In 2014, Operation Serval evolved into Operation Barkhane. 4,500 French troops are deployed in the region, where they focus on activity in insurgent-hit Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso.
It was reported in early October that France has plans for a new international special operations task force for the Sahel. Dubbed “Takuba,” the new force is planning to deploy to Mali this year. Its purpose is to work alongside Operation Barkhane. Estonia is the first partner to confirm a special operations forces deployment to Takuba. The Czech Republic and Belgium have “signaled” their participation.