On the fifth anniversary of the Paris terrorist attacks in 2015, the French military announced a successful operation against Bah ag Moussa, a veteran Tuareg leader from the RVIM (Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wa-l-Muslimin or The Group for the Support of Islam and Muslims – GSIM) one of the two primary jihadist groups operating in the Sahel.
The operation was launched in the Menaka region of eastern Mali after Moussa and four compatriots were tracked by French (and likely US) drones. A helicopter assault force comprised of four aircraft carrying unidentified SOF from Operation Barkhane’s Task Force Sabre was launched which interdicted Moussa’s truck.
A reported fifteen French special operators were involved in a brief firefight after the occupants of the truck fired upon them. Aerial snipers are believed to have fired warning shots before engaging the vehicle’s engine block. All five jihadists were confirmed killed in the operation.
The French Defense Minister, Florence Parly, noted that Moussa, a former Malian Army Colonel, had been responsible for training new recruits to RVIM and was a senior figure within RVIM; “A historic figure of the jihadist movement in the Sahel, Bah ag Moussa is considered responsible for several attacks against Malian and international forces.”
French forces late last month (October 30, 2020) also conducted successful airstrikes against concentrations of jihadists in the central Mali district of Boulikessi killing an estimated fifty combatants. An MQ-9 Reaper of the 1/33 Belfort Squadron tracked a number of dispersed groups equipped with motorcycles.
Guided by the Reaper, two airstrikes by Mirage 2000Ds of the 3rd Fighter Wing dropped at least six guided bombs on the jihadist concentrations. Task Force Sabre conducted a follow-on operation by helicopter assault force, landing in the area to pursue any surviving remnants and conduct sensitive site exploitation (SSE), capturing four prisoners.
Task Force Sabre is being supplemented and eventually will be replaced by a multinational SOF element wryly called Task Force Takuba, Tuareg for ‘sabre.’ Sixty Czech SOF are due to arrive imminently to support the French and Estonian SOF are already conducting operations. 150 Swedish personnel from the Army’s Special Operations Group including a trio Black Hawk helicopters from their Common Helicopter Wing are to follow.