Saturday 8 January: French Special Forces in Combat against AQIM in the Sahel

Discussion in 'Current Affairs, News and Analysis' started by fantassin, Jan 10, 2011.

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  1. It is Nicolas Sarkozy himself who gave, on Saturday January the 8th the order to French special forces units to intercept the kidnappers of two French hostages, Antoine and Vincent Léocour Delory, who had been abducted Friday around 2315 h in the Le Toulousain restaurant in Niamey, Niger.

    Saturday at 1630, President Sarkozy was in Martinique, in the French West Indies. He was about to start a meeting in the city of Schoelcher when he said: "As I speak, it seems that the Nigerian National Guard is following the terrorists as they move towards Mali. This operation is in progress." In fact, Nicolas Sarkozy knows exactly what is happening on the other side of the Atlantic, in the Sahel desert. It is also very possible that he already knows the tragic outcome of this operation; we were able to reconstruct at least part of what happened. The military never like to talk about ongoing operations, preferring to wait until all mission reports have been relayed back to the army staff. In that case, the fact that French Special Forces were involved and that their operations are never detailed or commented makes the need for secrecy even more important.

    Exchanges of gunfire

    When the two French nationals were abducted in Niamey, the Niger army reacted quickly, according to military sources in Paris. The Forces nationales d'intervention et de sécurité (FNIS, former Republican Guard) set off in pursuit of the kidnappers' vehicle and the Nigerian authorities activated checkpoints on the road from Niamey to the border with Mali, heading North.

    During the night, around three o'clock, one of those checkpoints intercepted the fleeing vehicle. According to our sources, the interception occurred at Tillaberi, on the edge of the paved road heading north. Exchanges of gunfire broke out, a Nigerian officer was killed and the kidnappers forced their way through the checkpoint. But this time the vehicle is "tracked" by a Breguet Atlantique 2 (ATL2) aircraft of the French navy. Those MPAs are on permanent alert at an airport in the region; an ATL2 took off in the middle of the night and started searching for the AQIM terrorists. From then on, the observers on board the aircraft never lost track of the kidnappers who continue their journey to Mali, still followed on the ground by the Niger forces.

    Two French soldiers injured

    Late afternoon, the kidnappers, who took a break of several hours on their route, were joined by other vehicles. When they reached the Malian border, just outside their "safe haven", they were much more numerous. How many were they exactly? It is impossible to know at this point. Where were they located around 16 hours? In Paris, the answer is: "Along the border between Mali and Niger." In fact, it seems they had already crossed the border and they could therefore find himself in Mali. Then - according to our information - they clashed with French Special Forces. Commandos of the Special Operations Command (Commandement des opérations spéciales or COS in French) had in fact departed from their unofficial base in Ouagadougou (Burkina Faso) on a number of helicopters. The exchanges of gunfire were violent, and after the clash, according to a French military source, the bodies of the two French nationals were found. They had been murdered.

    As for the kidnappers, the same source said, "many have been permanently neutralized, others less permanently, and others have goten out of Dodge”. On the French side, two soldiers were "lightly" wounded. A term which, needless to say, is not synonymous with "superficial". It means that after their convalescence, those injured will not experience physical sequel.

    Message to the kidnappers

    According to Colonel Thierry Burkhard, spokesman of the Defence Staff of the army in Paris, the identity of the kidnappers is not formally established. But other military sources say it is one of the two competing katiba in AQIM, that of Mokhtar Belmokhtar. According to sources close to French intelligence, Abdelhamid Abou Zeid (killer of British hostage Edwin Dyer in 2009, the French Michel Germaneau kidnapper died in July 2010 and jailer hostage Arlit) is not concerned by this abduction.

    Describing the operation, the Staff of the Armed forces explains that it is "not a success." "Our goal was to free the hostages, not to do attrition on AQIM." Another military source is more radical: "The operation to remove the hostages failed, and it must be said. The risk of death of the hostages had been taken into account. But the message that was sent to the kidnappers was clear strong, deliberate and intended as such. Enough! We say to the kidnappers: we will hunt down and destroy you, even if our hostages are killed. I am of course sorry for the deaths of two fellow countrymen. But I say it is a successful operation. "

    Translated from:

    OTAGES TUÉS AU NIGER - Les dessous de l'opération meurtrière, actualité Défense ouverte : Le Point
  2. Alsacien

    Alsacien LE Moderator

    Hostage rescue missions seem to have different success criteria in France than the generally accepted norm....

    "indique une source militaire française, que les corps des deux Français assassinés ont été retrouvés."
    "Je suis bien sûr navré pour ces morts de deux compatriotes. Mais je le dis : c'est une opération réussie."
  3. ...but we don't need MRA4 because we don't need to find the Red Banner Northern Fleet anymore, right?
  4. It amuses to read how some Arrsers dismiss the French as "cheese eating surrender monkeys", when it would appear that French forces are not keen in taking sh1t from anyone and are quite capable of getting the message over. It is most unfortunate that the hostages were killed, but such ops are risky at the best of times. Hopefully any potential kidnappers will realise that such acitvities will result in severe lead poisoning.
  5. I do admire the French attitude to getting stuck in. ( NOWAH )

    I did smile when I recalled the incident of the Somali pirates who did not realise the ship they attacked was from the French Navy.

    Weapons free, I gather.

    Vas y!

    YouTube - Somali Pirates Attack French Warship By Mistake
  6. According to the French Prime Minister, the final assault on the AQIM group which was according to him about a dozen man strong was carried out on the Malian side of the Niger-Mali border with the approval of the Malian government. The assault detachment was 100% French.

    Le Figaro - Flash Actu : Otages tués: assaut final mené au Mali

    According to an expert on the area, the hostages could have been targeted because one of them, Antoine de Léocour, who worked for the Aide médicale internationale NGO was about to marry (next week) a local girl and the other was his best man. Such inter religion marriage are of course anathema to AQIM.

    Since their bodies were recovered in a different location than where the terrorist were attacked, it is likely that once the AQIM group realized they would have to fight it out they decided to kill their hostages.

    Further infos have revealed that the Niger armed forces have also paid a high price during those operations: 3 KIA and 4 WIA including the CO of the Garde Nationale du Niger.

  7. It has been revealed tonight that two Al Qaeda members have been captured during this Op and that one of the FRA SF WIA was one of the pilots of the two helicopter belonging to the FRA Army SF Aviation unit, the 4 RHFS, that carried the assault detachment.
  8. Well done to the Niger Army getting on the case so quickly, not the sort of response most of us would expect from and African miltary unit.

    Its sad that the hostages didnt survive but I doubt Mr Cameron would have had the nuts to order our SF units in so quickly to try and get a couple of Brits back. Even if it wasn't a success it mihgt make people in the area think twice before kidnapping French nationals. Well done Frenchy, A+ for effort, C- for execution.
  9. From news reports, 4 Al Qaeda members were KIA and two taken prisoners during the Op.

    Considering the local "eye-for-an-eye" habits, it is considered that this particular terrorist action was carried out in response to another French raid against AQIM which had taken place last July. As AQIM has lost another four of its members, further anti-French actions are expected...
  10. chrisg46

    chrisg46 LE Book Reviewer

    Would i be right in thinking that the french were one of the first to get stuck in during the siege of sarajevo? Serbs had put a roadblock on a bridge vital to getting supplies in, and the french response was to put a platoon attack in to push them off. I think they might have lost a couple of blokes doing it too.
    I was only a young un at the time, so this could be inaccurate!!
  11. True, it was the Verbanja bridge and the attack was carried out by a platoon of the 3°RIMa led by LTN Héluin.

    They suffered 2 KIA and several WIA in the attack.

    Colonel Héluin is currently the CO of Task Force Niel in RC-E.
  12. Interesting update on this Op:

    -several of the armed men who opened fire on the French SF helos were wearing Niger Gendarmerie uniforms (remember the fact that recently several attacks against NATO bases in Afghanistan were carried out by INS wearing US ACU uniforms)

    -Because of the distances involved and limited number of helos locally available, a group of French SF operators (about ten apparently) had to be parachuted into action.

    This is the latest publicized para drop carried out by French SF after a drop in the Central African Republic in 2007 (about 60 operators) and several drops at sea during hostage rescue operations in Somalia in 2008 and 2009.
  13. These guys are ok... only by serving with them can you find out.