Africa

Al-Qaeda convoy en route to Mali 'destroyed' by French

A French military jet in Mali Image copyright AFP
Image caption French forces intercepted Islamists smuggling weapons from Libya

An al-Qaeda convoy carrying a shipment of weapons from North Africa to Mali has been destroyed by French forces, according to officials in Paris.

The convoy was transporting its cargo from Libya but was destroyed as it passed through neighbouring Niger.

French troops temporarily intervened in Mali in 2013 to fight al-Qaeda-linked militants.

UN peacekeepers are now stationed in the country but are being attacked by the Islamist insurgents.

"The intervention enabled a large quantity of weapons to be seized and to neutralise a number of those in the convoy, including some who were captured," a statement from the office of French President Francois Hollande said.

The statement added that the convoy belonged to Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), a North African affiliate of the group founded by Osama Bin Laden.

It was not immediately clear how the shipment was destroyed or how many people were captured.

France and several African nations intervened in Mali in January 2013 to halt a southern advance by militants on Mali's capital Bamako.

French troops began to withdraw in May the same year and a 9,000-strong UN peacekeeping force was dispatched to the country.

Despite being pushed back from towns in northern Mali, Islamist militants have continued to launch deadly attacks against the peacekeepers.

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