French special forces lead fight against Sahel militants

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Source: France 24

French special forces have been fighting Islamist militants for years in the Sahel, a semi-arid belt that stretches across six African countries from the Atlantic Ocean to the Red Sea. The region’s porous borders are regularly crossed by jihadists, including affiliates of al Qaeda and the Islamic State group.

The French missions are secret and the forces do not communicate their outcomes. Their overall goal is to prevent militant and terrorist groups from creating sanctuaries in the vast region.

Special forces members are deployed in the Sahel for four months at a time. They need to become accustomed to the terrain, the climate and the vegetation. Commandos are flexible and the chain of command is short, so everything can change in the blink of an eye: Operations can be prepared over several weeks or launched within an hour.