French army kills at least 30 extremists in central Mali

France’s ministry for the armed forces says its anti-terrorism forces in Mali have killed at least 30 al-Qaeda-linked extremists in central Mali.

Florence Parly said in a Twitter statement on Friday that a chief jihadi leader, Hamadoun Kouffa, may be among the dead in the operation.

The French army, which has about 4,500 troops in West Africa battling Islamist militants, did not specify whether the jihadists had all been killed or taken prisoner.

The operation took place with air support on Thursday night, it said.

Kouffa is the head of Katibat Macina, a predominantly Fulani jihadi group that is a member of al-Qaeda-linked militants, known by the acronym JNIM.

The ministry of armed forces says the attack combined airstrikes, helicopter assaults and ground engagement by French soldiers.

Operation Barkhane is France’s largest overseas military deployment with 3 000 French troops in the Sahel region.

This comes weeks after the killing of another jihadist head in the Gourma region between Timbuktu and Mopti.