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Video: French special forces lead fight against Sahel militants

France 24 screengrab

FRANCE 24 reporters have been following French special forces in the Sahel as they battle Islamist militants. It is the first time French special forces have allowed journalists to film them during their mission in the Sahel region.

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French special forces have been fighting Islamist militants for years in the Sahel, a semi-arid belt that stretches across six African countries from the Atlantic Ocean to the Red Sea. The region's porous borders are regularly crossed by jihadists, including affiliates of al Qaeda and the Islamic State group.

The French missions are secret and the forces do not communicate their outcomes. Their overall goal is to prevent militant and terrorist groups from creating sanctuaries in the vast region.

Special forces members are deployed in the Sahel for four months at a time. They need to become accustomed to the terrain, the climate and the vegetation. Commandos are flexible and the chain of command is short, so everything can change in the blink of an eye: Operations can be prepared over several weeks or launched within an hour.

French President Emmanuel Macron is hosting a summit in Paris on December 13 aimed at widening international support for the G5 Sahel – a regional anti-jihadist force composed of forces from Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Burkina Faso and Chad that is backed by French air support.

Click on the video player above to view FRANCE 24's exclusive report.

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