France launches 'Opération Sabre' in West Africa

Mali. One of the targets of the French military campaign against terror groups.  FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

France has announced the deployment of a military mission dubbed Opération Sabre to rescue its nationals held hostage and flush out Islamist terror groups in the West Africa region.

France is seemingly facing the heaviest consequence from the terror groups, with several of its citizens killed over the past five years, while some were still being held hostage by Al-Qaeda-supported groups.

French officials said 80 military vehicles, helicopter pilot trainers as well as commandos from contingents in Afghanistan and the Horn of Africa were expected to join Operation Sabre or sword.

The French daily Le Figaro Monday quoted French Defence minister Jean-Yves Le Drian as saying that the mission would be based in Burkina Faso, Niger, Mauritania and Chad.

But France was still facing a diplomatic battle to convince Algeria, a powerful nation in the fight against terrorists, but a traditional enemy of Paris, to support Operation Sabre.

Le Figaro revealed that since 2010, France had secretly deployed a significant military arsenal and about 100 special forces in Niger to recapture three of its compatriots held hostage by Islamist groups.

Several other countries, especially within the European Union, have pledged technical assistance to the West Africa regional force, which will join Malian troops in the onslaught against the Islamists.

The UN Security Council has called for a more inclusive and realistic operation for the conquest of the north, which has been declared independent by Islamist groups.

Speaking on Monday in New York, French Foreign minister Laurent Fabius expressed satisfaction over the green light given by the Malian authorities for the deployment of the regional force.

He reiterated that his country will not take the front seat in the drive against the Islamists, but will do all within its powers to win the war against terror groups.

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