— A French soldier has been killed
in northern Mali as France prepares to deploy thousands of its troops
across the region to better fight Islamist militancy, Defense Minister
Jean-Yves Le Drian said on Thursday.
The soldier, the eighth to die in Mali since France intervened in its
former colony in January 2013 to oust al-Qaeda linked militants
controlling the north of the country, was killed after an explosive
device went off under his vehicle, he told RMC radio.
Pockets of al-Qaida-linked fighters are still holding out across the
north, more than a year after the French offensive aimed at driving them
from the desert region they occupied for most of 2012 after hijacking a
rebellion by Tuareg separatists.
But after being scattered across Mali and into neighboring countries,
they have now regrouped and stepped up operations in recent months, Le
Drian said after announcing the death.
“A certain stability was achieved across the south [of Mali], but in the
north a certain number of jihadists have wanted to regroup,” he said.
“They have nothing to lose. They will give up their life [for the
Le Drian said France was restructuring its forces across West Africa for
more counter-terrorism activities to target Islamist groups taking
advantage of porous borders between southern Libya, northern Chad and
“There will be 1,000 soldiers that remain in Mali, and 3,000 in the
Sahel-Sahara zone, the danger zone, the zone of all types of smuggling,”
he said. “We will stay as long as necessary. There is no fixed date.”
Redeployed across region
France is particularly worried by the situation in Libya where more than
two-and-a-half years after the fall of former leader Moammer Gadhafi,
the oil-rich North African state is struggling to contain violence
between rival forces and Islamist militants are gaining ground in the
French defense officials say the new phase in operations will allow
their forces to operate freely across borders to strike militants. It
was recently approved by the main countries concerned - Mauritania,
Mali, Niger, Chad and Burkina Faso.
French forces will now be based in four regional centers. Some will be
in Gao in northern Mali, others Niger's capital Niamey, where French
surveillance drones are based, and in the Burkina Faso capital
Ouagadougou, where until now special forces have launched raids into the
The fourth center will be in the Chadian capital N'Djamena, where the operations will be coordinated.
Smaller bases to launch strikes are also being set up with Abidjan in the Ivory Coast as the mission's logistical hub.
“This area is key to the security of African states,” Le Drian said.
“But it is also for our own security. We have to prepare for the risks
because they are very big and we see that again today with the death [of
France, which also has more than 2,000 troops in Central African
Republic, is sending about 10 intelligence experts to Nigeria to help
find more than 200 schoolgirls kidnapped in April by Boko Haram.
With thousands of troops in the region, Paris has a major interest in
preventing Nigeria's security from deteriorating and has voiced concern
Boko Haram could spread north into the Sahel.
“We will provide our help to the Nigerian [intelligence] services to
locate these girls are,” Le Drian said. “We have the means to do that
and eventually to help bring them back.”
Reprinted from The Voice of America: http://www.voanews.com/content/reu-french-soldier-dies-in-mali-as-paris-readies-counter-insurgency-plan/1910255.html