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French, Malian troops kill 30 insurgents in Mali gun battle

Many Malian soldiers died in the ensuing gunbattle, Colonel Patrik Steiger said, without giving more details. No French troops were hurt.

FILE: Africa's Sahel region. Picture: Wikimedia Commons.

PARIS - French and Malian troops killed about 30 Islamist insurgents during a gunbattle in a region near the border with Niger, where Islamic State are known to be active, the French army said on Thursday.

West Africa’s arid Sahel region has seen a rise in violence by militant groups, some with links to al-Qaeda and Islamic State, that is drawing an increasingly aggressive response from countries including France and the United States.

It was a Mali-based al-Qaeda affiliate, Jama’a Nusrat ul-Islam wa al-Muslimin (JNIM), that claimed responsibility for a 2 March assault on the French Embassy and army headquarters in Burkina Faso’s capital that killed eight people.

Colonel Patrik Steiger said soldiers from France’s Barkhane force and Malian troops were on a reconnaissance mission 90km south of Menaka on Sunday when they encountered several dozen Islamist fighters, some on motorcycles.

Many Malian soldiers died in the ensuing gunbattle, Steiger said, without giving more details. No French troops were hurt.

Five countries - Burkina Faso, Niger, Chad, Mali and Mauritania - backed by France, launched a new task force last year to tackle Islamist militants in the region, to which international donors have committed half a billion dollars.

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