French special forces intervene in Niger amid Al-Qaeda attacks

French special forces assisted Nigerien troops in an operation at an army base in Niger to flush out Al-Qaeda-linked militants suspected of a string of deadly attacks Thursday in the West African country.

At least 21 people were killed and dozens more wounded in
coordinated car bombings and assaults on a uranium mine run by
French company Areva in the town of Arlit, and at a military base
in the city of Agadez in northern Niger.

“As I speak, the situation has been brought under control in
particular in Agadez, where our special forces have intervened to
support Nigerien forces at the request of President [Mahamadou]
Issoufou,”
French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told BFM
television.

Niger’s Defense Minister, Karidjo Mahamadou, told AP that two
terrorists had been killed and two hostages — believed to be cadets
at the military camp — were released as a result of the offensive,
which took place at dawn on Friday.

Earlier that day, French President Francois Holland said that Paris
would not tolerate such aggression, and promised to support Niger’s
effort to “destroy” the Islamist militants: “We will not
intervene in Niger as we did in Mali, but we have the same
willingness to cooperate to fight against terrorism,”
he
said.

The same Al-Qaeda-linked militant group responsible for a raid that
killed at least 39 foreign hostages at the In Amenas gas plant in
Algeria in January, also claimed it participated in the Niger
assaults, Reuters reported.

The group posted a statement on the Internet on Friday, claiming
the bombings were a response to Niger’s participation in French
operations in neighboring Mali, as well as claims by Nigerien
President Issoufou that the Islamists had been defeated.

The message was signed by Khalid Abu al-Abbas, better known as
Mokhtar Belmokhtar, a leading figure in Al-Qaeda in the Islamic
Maghreb (AQIM).

“This is the first of our responses to the statement of the
president of Niger — from his masters in Paris — that he eliminated
jihad and the mujahedeen militarily,”
the statement said.
“We will have more operations, by the strength and power of
Allah, and not only that, but we will move the battle to the inside
of his country if he doesn’t withdraw his mercenary army.”

During Thursday’s attack, Belmokhtar’s ‘Signatories in Blood’
jihadist group joined forces with fighters from the Movement for
Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MUJWA), which has already claimed
responsibility for the Niger attacks.

The two organizations have promised to strike at French interests
in western Africa after Paris launched a military campaign in
January that ended the Islamists’ 10-month control over the
northern two-thirds of Mali.

Paris initially claimed it was only planning a short-term
military operation in Mali, but later announced that 1,000 soldiers
would remain in the country for an indefinite period of time to
help rebuild.

Investigative journalist Michel Collon told RT that there are
economic and political reasons behind France’s actions in the
region, as Paris and Washington want to “keep Africa under the
colonial rule”.

“Actually, one cannot understand the strategy of France or the
US without understanding that they want to control Mali, Niger and
the countries like Algeria, that they want to prevent the formation
of unity in Africa, that they want to prevent the formation of
alliance between the BRICS countries and the African
economies,”
Collon said.

This article originally appeared on: RT