French forces killed 33 militants on Saturday in Mali near the border with Mauritania, French President Emmanuel Macron said.
“This morning, thanks to an engagement by our soldiers and the Barkhane forces, we were able to neutralise 33 terrorists, take one prisoner and free two Malian gendarmes who had been held hostage,” Macron said during in a speech in Ivory Coast.
France, the former colonial power, is the only Western country with a significant military presence waging counter-insurgency operations in Mali and the wider Sahel, an arid region of West Africa below the Sahara desert.
French army command confirmed the death toll in the operation, which it said took place overnight near the Mauritanian border about 150 km (90 miles) northwest of the town of Mopti in Mali.
The location was a different area of Mali to where 13 French soldiers died last month in a helicopter crash.