DAKAR, Senegal (AP) — Mali’s army and French forces in the West African nation have killed at least 100 Islamic extremists so far this year, the army said Wednesday.
The joint operation carried out from Jan. 2 to 20 also led to the capture of about 20 motorcycles and the seizure of weapons and other materials, the army said. Extremists were pushed out of areas in central and northern Mali such as Serma, Foulssaret, Doni and Boulikessi, where a recent extremist attack killed at least four soldiers.
The announcement comes as jihadist attacks in Mali have increased. At least six soldiers were killed in attacks on two localities over the weekend. Attacks by jihadists in northern Mali this year have also killed at least five U.N. peacekeepers.
Islamic extremist rebels were forced from power in Mali’s northern cities with the help of a 2013 French-led military operation. However, they quickly regrouped in the desert and began launching frequent attacks on the Malian army and its allies fighting the insurgency.
The extremists also expanded their reach well into central Mali, where their presence has inflamed tensions between ethnic groups in the area.
The announcement comes as the junta committee that overthrew former President Ibrahim Boubacar in August has been formally dissolved, according to a decree signed by transitional Mali President Bah N’Daw and Prime Minister Moctar Ouane.
As part of their agreement brokered by the West African economic bloc, known as ECOWAS, the junta committee was to disband. Its senior military members still hold key positions in the 25-member transitional government, including Col. Assimi Goita, who led the junta and is now the vice president of the transition, and Col. Malick Diaw who is the head of the National Transitional Council.