ABIDJAN, IVORY COAST >> French forces have killed 33 Islamic extremists in central Mali, French President Emmanuel Macron said today.
He made the announcement on the second day of his three-day trip to West Africa that has been dominated by the growing threat posed by jihadist groups.
In a tweet , Macron said he was “proud of our soldiers who protect us.” Two Malian gendarmes also were rescued in the operation, he said.
In a speech to the French community living in Ivory Coast, Macron said the French troops will continue fighting terrorism in the Sahel region.
“I want to reiterate my determination to continue this fight. We suffered losses, we also have victories,” he said, stressing the “huge success” of Saturday’s operation in the Mopti region of central Mali.
France has some 4,500 military personnel in West and Central Africa, much of which was ruled by France during the colonial era. The French led a military operation in 2013 to dislodge Islamic extremists from power in several major towns across Mali’s north.
In the ensuing years the militants have regrouped and pushed further into central Mali, where Saturday morning’s operation was carried out.
On Friday evening, Macron met with French military personnel stationed in Ivory Coast, which shares a long border with volatile Mali and Burkina Faso.
Later Saturday, Macron was to meet with Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara in Abidjan. Both men will highlight a new training effort being launched. The International Academy to Fight Terrorism will be in charge of “training in Ivory Coast some specialized forces from across Africa,” Macron said Saturday. “Then we will collectively be better prepared for the fight against terrorism.”