During an operation of the French military in the Sahel region, airstrikes carried out by Dassault Mirage 2000D fighter jets helped neutralize at least 50 insurgents from a group affiliated with Al-Qaeda.
On Friday 30, 2020, a General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper drone operated by the French military spotted a sizable column of motorcycles near Boulikessi, southern Mali. Several Islamic groups are active in this region, close to the three borders of Mali, Burkina-Faso and Niger.
“These motorcycles then grouped together under the coverage of trees,” explained the Minister of the Armed Forces, Florence Parly. “We had two Mirages in the area, ‘Barkhane’ [the name of the French counter-insurgency mission in the region] immediately launched the operation and launched a strike.”
The tactical bombers were able to neutralize a considerable part of the insurgent force using guided munitions. The rest was handled by members of the French special forces that were transported by helicopter. By the end of the operation, about fifty jihadists were killed, four were captured, fifty weapons and thirty motorcycles were destroyed. The French military did not suffer any loss.
The Mirage 2000 is a multirole fighter jet developed by Dassault Aviation in the 1970s. The D (Diversified) variant is an updated version of the airframe with two seats. Based on the Mirage 2000N (Nuclear), which was the main nuclear strike platform of the French Air Force until 2018, the Mirage 2000D was designed for long-range precision strikes using conventional weapons. As for the nuclear role, it has since been taken over by the Rafale, another Dassault aircraft.
The insurgents, part of the Islamist group Ansaroul Islam that has ties with Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), were reportedly about to attack the Malian soldiers in Boulikessi. On November 2, 2020, AQIM called on its supporters to kill anyone insulting the “Prophet Muhammad” and threatened to take revenge on France’s President Emmanuel Macron, after he defended free speech and the right to caricature.