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French president says 33 jihadists killed in central Mali

French President Emmanuel Macron is welcomed by President Alassane Ouattara upon arrival in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, Friday Dec. 20, 2019. Macron is in Ivory Coast for a three-day official visit.

DIOMANDE BLE BLONDE/AP

By ALEXIS ADELE | Associated Press | Published: December 21, 2019

ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast — French forces have killed 33 Islamic extremists in central Mali, French President Emmanuel Macron said Saturday.

He made the announcement on the second day of his three-day trip to West Africa that has been dominated by the growing threat posed by jihadist groups.

In a tweet, Macron said he was "proud of our soldiers who protect us." Two Malian gendarmes also were rescued in the operation, he said.

France has some 4,500 military personnel in West and Central Africa, much of which was ruled by France during colonialism. The French led a military operation in 2013 to dislodge Islamic extremists from power in several major towns across Mali's north.

In the ensuing years the militants have regrouped and pushed further into central Mali, where Saturday morning's operation was carried out.

On Friday evening, Macron met with French military personnel stationed in Ivory Coast, which shares a long border with volatile Mali and Burkina Faso. Later in the day Saturday he is to highlight a new effort being launched: The International Academy to Fight Terrorism will focus on regional strategies and training those involved in the fight against extremism, according to the French presidency.

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