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French forces kill militants near Mali-Burkina Faso border

Pascal Guyot, AFP | Archival picture shows a French soldier of the operation Barkhane patrolling over Malian desert in March 2016

French soldiers killed more than 20 militants hiding in a forest near the border between the West African countries of Mali and Burkina Faso this weekend, its regional force said in a statement.

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The operation followed the death of a French soldier nearby earlier this month. It involved both air and ground strikes, the statement said, but failed to identify the militant group that was targeted.

The French forces may have also captured some of the militants alive, the AFP news agency reported citing an unnamed army official.

Mali has been regularly hit by Islamist militant violence, despite a 2013 French-led operation to drive them out of key northern cities they had seized.

But violence in its southern neighbour, Burkina Faso, began to intensify last year with an attack in the capital that killed dozens.

Burkinabe officials believe a new Islamist militant group called Ansar al-Islam led by a local preacher was using the Foulsare Forest as a base for launching attacks elsewhere.

France has deployed some 4,000 soldiers to fight Islamist militants in the region as part of its Barkhane military operation.

(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS, AFP)

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