It was a tough weekend for the soldiers of France’s Barkhane force who were engaged in a vast operation, baptised Bayard, which “led to the neutralisation of 20 or so terrorists in the forest of Foulsaré near the border between Mali and Burkina Faso, Southwest of Gao,” according to a French Defence Ministry statement on April 30.
It was in this “zone of influence and refuge of terrorists” that Sergeant Julien Barbé was killed on 5 April during Operation Panga. The latter allowed essential information to be gathered which then led to this weekend’s raid.
Launched on 1 August 2014 in partnership with the G5 Sahel* countries, the Barkhane operation currently involves 4,000 soldiers whose mission is to support the five partner nations in their fight against terrorist groups active in the Sahelo-Saharan band.
On Saturday, 29 April, two Tiger helicopters, preceded by air strikes conducted by two Mirage 2000s, intervened to secure the area and allow the Cayman helicopter deployment of a commando detachment of the 27th Mountain Infantry Brigade.
The commanders of the 27th MIB deployed directly close to enemy positions and then the following morning undertook a search of the zone accompanied by mine-clearing experts. And they hit the jackpot: “Large quantitities of weapons, ammunition, rocket launchers and components to manufacture explosive devices were discovered,” said the Ministry of Defence.
“The situation seems to be evolving positively,” the Defence Ministry said last Friday in a report on Operation Barkhane. In addition to the multiplication of French operations, the G5 Sahel countries will soon be setting up a “Joint Force” whose quota, limited to 5,000 military personnel, will have a mandate essentially directed towards the fight against terrorism.
* Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger