Forty fighters “neutralized” in drone strikes in Niger | Conflict News

The armed men were traveling on motorbikes near the border between Niger and Burkina Faso, according to the French army.

French drone strikes have killed nearly 40 fighters who were traveling on motorbikes near the Niger-Burkina Faso border, the French army said on Thursday.

In a statement, the French military called the strikes a “new tactical success” for France’s counterterrorism efforts in Africa’s Sahel region, called Operation Barkhane.

“Intelligence obtained from Nigerien units in contact with the column confirmed that the motorcycles belonged to an armed terrorist group moving between Burkina Faso and Niger,” Barkhane said in the statement.

“In close coordination with the Nigerien armed forces, the Barkhane force carried out several strikes against the column. Nearly 40 terrorists were neutralized.

Niger’s government also issued a statement saying the fighters were killed after an attack earlier this week killed eight members of the security forces in southwestern Niger.

The drone strikes in Niger come as France reorganizes its military efforts in the wider Sahel region, the vast area south of the Sahara Desert where it was once a colonial power and still maintains strong economic ties.

Niger has become a more reliable ally after military coups overthrew democratically elected presidents in neighboring Mali and Burkina Faso over the past two years.

“Our military commitment in the Sahelo-Saharan zone to fight terrorism, alongside our African partners, is total,” Defense Minister Sébastien Lecornu said on Twitter.

Earlier this year, France announced it was withdrawing all its forces from Mali nine years after the French military led an effort that drove armed groups out of Timbuktu and other centers in northern Mali.

The decision to withdraw from Mali came amid growing hostility to the French armed presence and tensions with the country’s leader, who has carried out two coups nine months apart to consolidate his power.

France has announced its intention to reposition its forces from Mali to other countries in the Sahel region, including Niger. Violence is on the rise in the Sahel, including in Niger’s southwestern neighbor Burkina Faso, which faces increasing attacks from armed groups.

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