Mali clash: French forces 'neutralise' Islamist militants

  • Published
File image of members of the French anti-terrorist Barkhane force patrolling in MaliImage source, AFP
Image caption,
The operation was carried out by members of France's Barkhane force (file image) - set up to combat Islamist forces in the Sahel region of northern Africa last year

French forces in Mali have killed or captured 10 members of an Islamist group which claimed responsibility for a hotel massacre last month, the defence ministry in Paris says.

The operation took place on Saturday night near Menaka in eastern Mali.

Arms and vehicles were seized during the four-hour fire fight, the ministry said in a statement (in French).

The al-Murabitoun group says it was behind the attack on the Radisson Blu hotel in Bamako in November.

It says it was working with al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). The Macina Liberation Front from central Mali has also claimed responsibility and there has also been speculation that the gunmen were from Somalia.

On Monday the government of Mali declared a 10-day state of alert because of renewed security concerns.

In its statement, the defence ministry said members of France's anti-Islamist Barkhane force had "neutralised" 10 terrorists - meaning they were killed or captured.

It said al-Murabitoun was "responsible for many attacks on civilians of Mali and Niger, as well as local army forces and international forces".

Northern Mali was captured by groups who claimed an independent Islamic state in 2012.

They were ousted in a French-led military operation which began in January 2013, but correspondents say militant groups have become more active in southern Mali this year.

Twenty-four people, including two attackers, died in the hotel siege last month. More than half of the victims were foreign nationals.

Militancy in Mali

  • October 2011: Ethnic Tuaregs launch rebellion after returning with arms from Libya
  • March 2012: Army coup over government's handling of rebellion, a month later Tuareg and al-Qaeda-linked fighters seize control of north
  • June 2012: Islamist groups capture Timbuktu, Kidal and Gao from Tuaregs, start to destroy Muslim shrines and manuscripts and impose Sharia
  • January 2013: Islamist fighters capture a central town, raising fears they could reach Bamako. Mali requests French help
  • July 2013: UN force, now totalling about 12,000, takes over responsibility for securing the north after Islamists routed from towns
  • July 2014: France launches an operation in the Sahel to stem jihadist groups
  • Attacks continue in northern desert area, blamed on Tuareg and Islamist groups
  • 2015: Terror attacks in the capital, Bamako, and central Mali