Around fifty armed terrorist groups (GATs) were neutralised on 30 October in the Boulikessi region of Mali by a Air and Space Forces strike, followed by an operation of the Special Forces.
Action initiated by a Reaper
The action was initiated by a General Atomics Reaper of the 1/33 Belfort UAV squadron, which conducted a "find" operation (intelligence collection). Around thirty motorbikes and twice as many terrorists were detected: the machines were hidden under "kékés" (bushy shrubs typical of this region). An operation was launched by the Special Operations Command (COS) and its armed wing on the spot, the Sabre Task Force. The terrorist armed groups (GAT) on the ground gave all the criteria for a katiba ready for action: an air strike was therefore decided and the camp struck at around 7 PM, when night had already fallen. On the likely indications of the Reaper, the Dassault Mirage 2000D patrol of the 3rd Fighter Wing dropped all its bombs (four) and the Reaper did the same, as recognised by the Army General Staff.
Commandos and helicopters
With the aircraft in "winchester" (running out of ammunition), the Mirage 2000D patrol on alert in Niamey took over from the previous one and also carried out at least one drop. More than half a dozen bombs were dropped, which had a major effect on this highly concentrated group. It was only a few hours later that Sabre's commandos and helicopters arrived on the scene. Half a dozen aircraft, manoeuvring helicopters, Tiger and Gazelle, as well as commandos, including air force operators. The GATs that had survived the strike had withdrawn. The army general staff spoke of "fighting" until dawn.
The group on the ground, several dozen operators, took four prisoners. These resources, as well as any documents and equipment that may have survived the fire of the bombs, will make it possible to restart other operations, in a now classic cycle in the Sahel. During the exploitation phase conducted by Sabre, armaments were found, notably RPG rocket launchers. Clearly, the motorbike column was getting ready to go into action when it was neutralised. At the moment, we don’t know their objectives. This tactical victory comes at the right time. Other air strikes also helped to achieve a result in Operation Bullseye, launched at the beginning of October. 3000 soldiers would be engaged in this manoeuvre, which should tip public opinion and victory in the right direction. The axis of effort is clearly in the region of the three borders: COMANFOR, General Marc Conruyt even left his CP in N'Djamena (Chad) for an advanced point to direct the effort as closely as possible.
To understand these counter-terrorist missions, our two special editions: Barkhane (published in July, still available in Air and Cosmos shop) and Special Forces, currently available on newsstands.
SPECIAL EDITION OPERATION BARKHANE
by : Jean-Marc Tanguy
Prologue: photos, editorial.
Operations map: double page locating all the bases and their aircraft
Barkhane: how Operation Barkhane is taking over from the terrorists
Searching for and neutralising GATs (Armed Terrorist Groups): the power of 3D
The Sabre system: the Task Force has been deployed in the Sahel since 2009.
The foreigners of Barkhane: Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Spain, Great Britain, USA