15 Islamic State fighters killed by airstrike in Mali: France
French anti-jihadist forces in Mali have killed 15 members of the Islamic State group near the volatile border area with Niger, a French army spokesman told AFP on Friday.
The team, travelling in a motorcycle convoy, was spotted by a Reaper drone operated by France's Barkhane military operation on Thursday and later hit by an airstrike.
"Verification of various intelligence data allowed confirmation that they were part of the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS), en route toward the Menaka region," army spokesman Colonel Pascal Ianni said.
France has around 2,400 soldiers in Mali, and 4,500 in the Sahel region overall, as part of the Barkhane deployment to bolster regional governments against Islamic militants spread across large parts of the semi-desert expanse.
French President Emmanuel Macron announced last year a drawdown of Barkhane, hoping that European allies would step in with more troops while local authorities bolstered their own security forces.
Yet in February, France said it would withdraw all its troops from Mali after a breakdown in relations with the country's ruling junta, ending a near 10-year deployment against jihadist groups that pose a growing threat in West Africa.
Early this month, an attack by hundreds of jihadists on a military camp in central Mali left 27 soldiers dead, even though Mali's army had killed 47 "terrorists".