Photos: French troops in Mali anti-jihadist campaign mired in mud and mistrust

In Mali, around 4,500 French troops deployed in this patchwork of former French colonies for 'Operation Barkhane' face huge logistical challenges in hostile terrain. Hardest of all, they rely on the cooperation of a civilian population spread thinly across vast and remote spaces, often either sympathetic to the Islamists or terrified of informing on them. The operation was launched in the wake of Operation Serval, a French offensive that pushed back Tuareg rebels and allied Islamists from northern Mali's vast desert in 2013.

Updated On Aug 16, 2019 05:44 PM IST 9 Photos
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A French soldier of the 2nd Foreign Engineer Regiment searches a man during Operation Barkhane in Ndaki, Mali. The 4,500 French troops deployed in this patchwork of former French colonies for ‘Operation Barkhane’ face huge logistical challenges in hostile terrain. Hardest of all, they rely on the cooperation of a civilian population spread thinly across vast and remote spaces, often either sympathetic to the Islamists or terrified of informing on them. (Benoit Tessier / REUTERS)

A French soldier of the 2nd Foreign Engineer Regiment searches a man during Operation Barkhane in Ndaki, Mali. The 4,500 French troops deployed in this patchwork of former French colonies for ‘Operation Barkhane’ face huge logistical challenges in hostile terrain. Hardest of all, they rely on the cooperation of a civilian population spread thinly across vast and remote spaces, often either sympathetic to the Islamists or terrified of informing on them. (Benoit Tessier / REUTERS)

Updated on Aug 16, 2019 05:44 PM IST
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A French soldier conducts an area control operation. “We’re not going to resolve this in a day,” said David, the commander of the French forward base near the town of Gossi. (Benoit Tessier / REUTERS)

A French soldier conducts an area control operation. “We’re not going to resolve this in a day,” said David, the commander of the French forward base near the town of Gossi. (Benoit Tessier / REUTERS)

Updated on Aug 16, 2019 05:44 PM IST
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Local women and children arrive at an abandoned clinic to receive medical care in Ndaki, Mali. While Serval had brought moderate stability to northern Mali, unrest had spread to the country’s more populated centre, with attacks also reaching neighbouring Burkina Faso, Niger and even Ivory Coast. With no end date announced at its launch, the follow-up operation would try to stabilise countries in the region by assisting their governments in a West African anti-terrorism force. Five years on, no end is in sight. (Benoit Tessier / REUTERS)

Local women and children arrive at an abandoned clinic to receive medical care in Ndaki, Mali. While Serval had brought moderate stability to northern Mali, unrest had spread to the country’s more populated centre, with attacks also reaching neighbouring Burkina Faso, Niger and even Ivory Coast. With no end date announced at its launch, the follow-up operation would try to stabilise countries in the region by assisting their governments in a West African anti-terrorism force. Five years on, no end is in sight. (Benoit Tessier / REUTERS)

Updated on Aug 16, 2019 05:44 PM IST
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French soldiers patrol in an all-terrain armoured vehicle BvS10 produced by BAE Systems in the Gourma region. Efforts led by France to stop a region on Europe’s doorstep becoming a launchpad for attacks at home are increasingly trapped in an endless cat-and-mouse game with well-armed jihadists, who know the terrain and hide easily among civilians. (Benoit Tessier / REUTERS)

French soldiers patrol in an all-terrain armoured vehicle BvS10 produced by BAE Systems in the Gourma region. Efforts led by France to stop a region on Europe’s doorstep becoming a launchpad for attacks at home are increasingly trapped in an endless cat-and-mouse game with well-armed jihadists, who know the terrain and hide easily among civilians. (Benoit Tessier / REUTERS)

Updated on Aug 16, 2019 05:44 PM IST
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Commander David seen speaking to a vegetable grower as he conducts a Civil-Military Cooperation (CIMIC) patrolling during Operation Barkhane in Gossi. Operation Barkhane was launched in the wake of Operation Serval, a French offensive that pushed back Tuareg rebels and allied Islamists from northern Mali’s vast desert in 2013. It was launched in the wake of Operation Serval, a French offensive that pushed back Tuareg rebels and allied Islamists from northern Mali’s vast desert in 2013. (Benoit Tessier / REUTERS)

Commander David seen speaking to a vegetable grower as he conducts a Civil-Military Cooperation (CIMIC) patrolling during Operation Barkhane in Gossi. Operation Barkhane was launched in the wake of Operation Serval, a French offensive that pushed back Tuareg rebels and allied Islamists from northern Mali’s vast desert in 2013. It was launched in the wake of Operation Serval, a French offensive that pushed back Tuareg rebels and allied Islamists from northern Mali’s vast desert in 2013. (Benoit Tessier / REUTERS)

Updated on Aug 16, 2019 05:44 PM IST
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French soldiers of the Belleface Desert Tactical Group (GTD) set up a temporary operating base (TFOB) for the night in the Gourma region. On the first day of one mission, in 40 degree Celsius (104 F), the soldiers separated the women and children outside a thatched dome where camels chewed cud. They searched the men, took their smartphones and copied them onto a computer. One contained incriminating jihadist propaganda. (Benoit Tessier / REUTERS)

French soldiers of the Belleface Desert Tactical Group (GTD) set up a temporary operating base (TFOB) for the night in the Gourma region. On the first day of one mission, in 40 degree Celsius (104 F), the soldiers separated the women and children outside a thatched dome where camels chewed cud. They searched the men, took their smartphones and copied them onto a computer. One contained incriminating jihadist propaganda. (Benoit Tessier / REUTERS)

Updated on Aug 16, 2019 05:44 PM IST
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On the first day of one mission, in 40 degree Celsius (104 F), the French soldiers arrived in a hamlet 10km north of Ndaki town, next to a small wood where suspected jihadists had been seen fleeing earlier. They separated the women and children outside a thatched dome where camels chewed cud. They searched the men, took their smartphones and copied them onto a computer. One contained incriminating jihadist propaganda. (Benoit Tessier / REUTERS)

On the first day of one mission, in 40 degree Celsius (104 F), the French soldiers arrived in a hamlet 10km north of Ndaki town, next to a small wood where suspected jihadists had been seen fleeing earlier. They separated the women and children outside a thatched dome where camels chewed cud. They searched the men, took their smartphones and copied them onto a computer. One contained incriminating jihadist propaganda. (Benoit Tessier / REUTERS)

Updated on Aug 16, 2019 05:44 PM IST
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Soldiers try to move an armoured vehicle from the mud in the Gourma region. One unit wanted to check a forest where weapons had been abandoned, but the troops were still stuck towing vehicles. The next morning a joint Malian-French mission visited a Fulani village next to woodland where they had spotted some men fleeing. The village chief, a bearded man with a green scarf and sky-blue robe, denied seeing any armed men. (Benoit Tessier / REUTERS)

Soldiers try to move an armoured vehicle from the mud in the Gourma region. One unit wanted to check a forest where weapons had been abandoned, but the troops were still stuck towing vehicles. The next morning a joint Malian-French mission visited a Fulani village next to woodland where they had spotted some men fleeing. The village chief, a bearded man with a green scarf and sky-blue robe, denied seeing any armed men. (Benoit Tessier / REUTERS)

Updated on Aug 16, 2019 05:44 PM IST
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A member of a French military medical unit provides medical action for the benefit of the population during Operation Barkhane in Ndaki. “They want to talk to us but they are afraid,” Malian military police unit Captain Balassine said. “The other day we were talking to a young girl,” he continued. “First she lied. Then she said she was scared of talking because, after we leave, people will come and kill her.” (Benoit Tessier / REUTERS)

A member of a French military medical unit provides medical action for the benefit of the population during Operation Barkhane in Ndaki. “They want to talk to us but they are afraid,” Malian military police unit Captain Balassine said. “The other day we were talking to a young girl,” he continued. “First she lied. Then she said she was scared of talking because, after we leave, people will come and kill her.” (Benoit Tessier / REUTERS)

Updated on Aug 16, 2019 05:44 PM IST
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