French forces 'neutralise' 10 militants in Mali operation

Cars are seen parked in front of the Radisson Blu hotel after it reopened in Bamako, Mali.
Cars are seen parked in front of the Radisson Blu hotel after it reopened in Bamako, Mali.PHOTO: REUTERS

ABIDJAN (REUTERS) - French forces in Mali "neutralised" around 10 fighters in a weekend operation against the Al Mourabitoun Islamist group, which claimed responsibility for an attack on a luxury hotel in the capital last month, France's defence ministry said on Tuesday (Dec 22).

Nineteen victims and two gunmen died in the Nov 20 assault on Bamako's Radisson Blu hotel. The victims included six Russians, three Chinese, an American, a Belgian, a Senegalese and an Israeli.

A statement released by the defence ministry said fighting during the night from Dec 19 to Dec 20 lasted nearly four hours.

"French forces carried out an operation in the region of Menaka in Mali against an element of the terrorist group al Mourabitoun responsible for numerous attacks," the statement said ,without identifying the operation's target.

"Some 10 terrorists were neutralised. A large quantity of arms and explosives were seized," it added.

Al Mourabitoun, headed by veteran Algerian terrorist Mokhtar Belmokhtar, and Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) said the Radisson attack was a joint operation between the two groups.

Homegrown Malian Islamist group the Massina Liberation Front also claimed responsibility for the raid.