December 22, 2015 / 11:30 PM / in 2 years

French forces 'neutralize' 10 militants in Mali operation

ABIDJAN (Reuters) - French forces in Mali “neutralized” 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 defense ministry said on Tuesday.

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 defense 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 neutralized. A large quantity of arms and explosives were seized,” it added.

Al Mourabitoun, headed by veteran Algerian jihadist 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.

Reporting by Joe Bavier; Editing by Chris Reese

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