French airstrikes kill 30 in Sahel

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PARIS The French military said Saturday operations by French and Malian forces have killed 30 more extremists in Africa’s Sahel region in recent days, amid stepped-up efforts to combat jihadist groups in the area. Two airstrikes Friday involving one of France’s first armed drones killed some 20 militants in the restive border zone where Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso meet, according to a French military statement. Earlier in the week, two French commando operations killed about 10 others in the border zone where extremists groups including Daesh operate, the statement said. The French military said France’s Barkhane forcein the Sahel region worked closely with Malian forces on the operations, and did not report any casualties among French or Malian troops. The military action came after France announced plans Feb. 2 to deploy 600 additional soldiers to its Barkhane force, raising the number of troops there to 5,100. Most of the new troops will be concentrated on the three-border zone, the epicenter of the fight against jihadist groups. Barkhane has been operating in the region since 2014. French President Emmanuel Macron and the leaders of the G5 Sahel group — Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and Chad — launched a new plan last month to fight extremists in the area.—AFP