A year ago the French military bombed a wedding ceremony at Bounty in Mali, killing 22 men, of whom 19 were civilians. This terrible blunder was widely covered by the media at the time. But abuses committed in the following weeks and in the same region by the Malian army passed unnoticed. As Rémi Carayol reports, it would have been hard for French troops, who were on the ground with their Malian colleagues as part of a wide-ranging counter-insurgency operation, not to have been aware of what was going on. Yet the French military have remained silent about the incidents.
French soldier Maxime Blasco, 34, previously decorated for bravery in action during France's military intervention against jihadist forces in the Sahel region of Africa, and who died in combat in Mali last Friday, was posthumously awarded the Légion d'honneur and promoted to the rank of sergeant in a ceremony in Paris led by French President Emmanuel Macron.
French President Emmanuel Macron has announced that France will reduce the size of its military mission in the West Africa region of the Sahel where it has been engaged since 2013 in operations against jihadist groups.
The Élysée portrays the plan to create a huge swathe of greenery across the Sahara and Sahel as the ultimate solution to the problems of unemployment, lawlessness and desertification in that part of the African continent. However, the French presidency's sudden interest in the Great Green Wall project – which was officially endorsed by the African Union back in 2007 - also has ulterior motives. And as Fanny Pigeaud reports, some experts are sceptical about its benefits.
The French military has banned soldiers from posting sensitive information online. However, via a number of different apps Mediapart has managed to discover the profiles of more than 800 French troops deployed abroad and the profiles of more than 200 special forces soldiers. The military's general staff meanwhile is reluctant to discuss the precise measures that have been taken to contain a problem that could put the security of military personnel and their operations at risk, especially from terrorists who target French troops abroad. Justine Brabant and Sébastien Bourdon report.
by Justine Brabant, Sébastien Bourdon and Antoine Schirer
Two French soldiers were killed this weekend in Mali when their vehicle was targeted by an improvised explosive device, in what was a grim reminder of the difficulties the French military face in their campaign to defeat jihadist groups in the Sahel region. To strengthen its operations, France has begun deploying, for the first time anywhere, armed drones. But, as Rémi Carayol reports, while these have apparently reduced the capacity of the jihadists to launch mass attacks, the drone strikes have also made civilians fearful for their own safety, with the potential effect of losing support for the military campaign.
French defence minister Florence Parly has announced an operation led by French forces this week killed Abdelmalek Droukdel, leader of al-Qaeda in North Africa, and that last month a senior Islamic State group commander in Mali had also been captured.
French officials have announced that Foreign Legion member Kévin Clement, 21, was killed in a firefight combat against armed groups in Mali’s Menaka region, bringing the total of fatalities among French forces engaged against jihadist forces in the north-west African country since 2013 to 43.
French President Emmanuel Macron has held a summit in Pau, south-west France, with leaders of five West African states engaged alongside France in fighting jihadist forces in the Sahel when he announced a further 220 French troops would be sent to the region to join their 4,500 colleagues already on the ground and the creation of a joint command structure with regional states.
In a country beset with spiralling jihadist violence, young people from Burkina Faso’s Fula community are the ideal recruits for armed groups keen to capitalise on the discontent stemming from extreme poverty and the frequent abuses committed by government troops in this part of Africa. And as François Hume and Olivia Macadré report, if they reject the jihadists’ call to arms, they are widely seen as guilty by association.
On Monday November 25th 13 members of the French military were killed when two helicopters crashed in Mali during France's ongoing military operations there. The grim news sparked debates back in France about the country's military involvement in the Sahel region of Africa. But as Mediapart's René Backmann writes, the legacy of France's colonial past and the remnants of its post-colonial approach to the continent known as 'Françafrique' suggest that President Emmanuel Macron's government will be unable to see that military combat against jihadism is not the only response that is needed to tackle the region's instability.