- Title: French troops face heat, silence during hunt for jihadists in Mali
- Date: 12th August 2019
- Summary: 10KM NORTH OF NDAKI, GOURMA, MALI (RECENT - JULY 26, 2019) (REUTERS) VILLAGERS GATHERED AROUND HUT VILLAGER POUNDING MILLET IN WOODEN POT FRENCH BARKHANE SOLDIERS STANDING ON HILL, WITH COWS IN FOREGROUND FRENCH BARKHANE SOLDIER LOOKING THROUGH BINOCULARS CHILDREN WALKING FRENCH SOLDIERS SEARCHING HOUSE BARKHANE SOLDIER SEARCHING VILLAGER WHO IS SUSPECTED OF SHARING JIHADIST PROPAGANDA ON HIS PHONE MAN BEING SEARCHED MAN SITTING BARKHANE SOLDIER HOLDING PHONE AND ASKING MAN IF IT IS HIS PHONE BARKHANE SOLDIER SEARCHING WITH METAL DETECTOR SOLDIERS SPEAKING ON PHONE, CHECKING INFORMATION (SOUNDBITE) (French) COMMANDER OF SUB TACTICAL GROUP NUMBER 11 PART OF THE DESERT TACTICAL GROUP BELLEFACE IN GOURMA, CAPTAIN JOFFREY, SAYING: "So what caught our attention was that during the first check we discovered suspicious clues which made us carry out a more thorough procedure and to confirm whether or not he (the villager suspected of sharing jihadist propaganda on his phone) would be a person of interest for Barkhane." 20KM NORTH OF NDAKI, MALI (RECENT - JULY 26, 2019) (REUTERS) BARKHANE SOLDIERS CHECKING ANOTHER HOME / VILLAGER STANDING BY DOOR VILLAGER SITTING WITH SOLDIERS NEXT TO METAL BOX IN FRONT OF HIS HOME / ANOTHER BOX BEING BROUGHT OUT BY SOLDIERS BARKHANE SOLDIER CUTTING LOCK OFF METAL BOX BARKHANE SOLDIER CHECKING INSIDE OF METAL BOX GAO, MALI (RECENT - JULY 30, 2019) (REUTERS) (SOUNDBITE) (French) COMMANDER OF THE DESERT TACTICAL GROUP BELLEFACE, COLONEL NICOLAS JAMES, SAYING: "We need to accept that during a phase of stabilisation the operation must last in order to be effective. Because we really are in a situation of confrontation between two wills: we have a dogged adversary, who is tough, drawing from a breeding ground that is favourable to him because the population is isolated, because the recruitment - using ideology and sometimes downright thuggery - allows him to sometimes recruit whilst on our side we draw on the legitimacy of the Malian government, on the armed forces to counteract these intentions." GOURMA REGION, MALI (RECENT - JULY 27, 2019) (REUTERS) ALL TERRAIN ARMOURED VEHICLE (ATAV), NORMALLY USED IN MOUNTAINS AND BROUGHT IN BY CHASSEURS ALPINS (ALPINE HUNTERS) BATTALION, PULLING MILITARY ARMOURED VEHICLE OUT OF MUD ANOTHER ARMOURED VEHICLE BEING PULLED OUT OF MUD BY ATAV FAMA (MALIAN ARMY) VEHICLE DRIVING PAST 2KM EAST OF NDAKI, GOURMA, MALI (RECENT - JULY 28, 2019) (REUTERS) HEAD OF MALI MILITARY POLICE, BALASSINE PACHILI, WALKING UP TO HEAD OF BARKHANE LIAISON WITH FAMA, CAPTAIN GUILLAUME / TWO MEN SPEAKING FAMA SOLDIER WALKING TOWARDS VILLAGE FAMA SOLDIER ENTERING COMPOUND WHERE VILLAGE CHIEF SAID HE DID NOT HAVE MOBILE PHONE, BUT SOLDIERS FOUND TWO PHONE CHARGERS VILLAGERS LOOKING ON (SOUNDBITE) (French) HEAD OF BARKHANE LIAISON WITH FAMA, CAPTAIN GUILLAUME, ASKING VILLAGE CHIEF QUESTION THROUGH TRANSLATOR, SAYING: "Ask him if there are armed men stationed here." (SOUNDBITE) (Local language and French) VILLAGE CHIEF TALKING AND FAMA TRANSLATOR SAYING: "They scare off the population." ARID GROUND (SOUNDBITE) (French) HEAD OF MALI MILITARY POLICE, BALASSINE PACHILI, SAYING: "There is fear. The other day a young girl called Khadiatou on the other side, at first she would lie, or not talk to us and I told Captain Guillaume to isolate her so we could question her. But she is scared of talking because she said, after we leave, people will come and kill her. They want to talk to us but they are scared. These are the pressures that are on these people because we are not present in a definitive way. We come for one patrol and then go back. For as long as we are not here (permanently) it won't be possible. We need to be here." FAMA SOLDIER IN FRONT OF HOUSE BEING SEARCHED BY SOLDIERS VILLAGER ROLLING MAT IN FRONT OF HOUSE VILLAGER SITTING WITH CHILD YOUNG VILLAGERS (AUDIO AS INCOMING/INTERFERENCE FROM MILITARY FREQUENCY) (SOUNDBITE) (French) FAMA CAPTAIN, ZAMBÃ‰ DAKONO, SAYING: "What is difficult is searching for and getting information on the enemy, which is very hard. If someone has a brother in the rebellion and you report him it will be very hard. That is the zone we are in." NDAKI VILLAGE, GOURMA, MALI (RECENT - JULY 28, 2019) (REUTERS) VARIOUS OF PACHILI DISTRIBUTING COUPONS FOR HEALTH CHECK PROVIDED BY THE FRENCH BARKHANE MILITARY MEDICAL STAFF TO VILLAGERS PACHILI TALKING TO VILLAGER TELLING THEM TO GET PEOPLE TO COME TO GET THEIR COUPONS AND MEDICAL CHECKS WOMAN AND CHILDREN QUEUING OUTSIDE CLINIC SOLDIER ENTERING CLINIC FRENCH BARKHANE MEDICAL SOLDIER TALKING TO LOCAL WOMAN ABOUT HER CHILD THROUGH TRANSLATOR DURING MEDICAL VISIT WOMAN WITH HER CHILD FRENCH MILITARY DOCTOR CHECKING MAN IN CLINIC GOSSI, GOURMA, MALI (RECENT JULY 28, 2019) (REUTERS) FRENCH MILITARY VEHICLE DRIVING THROUGH STREET PEOPLE WALKING VARIOUS OF VILLAGER, ALMEDI AG AGISSA, WORKING AS PART OF CIVIL MILITARY COOPERATION (CIMIC), WATERING VEGETABLE PATCH (SOUNDBITE) (French) VILLAGER WORKING AS PART OF THE CIVIL MILITARY COOPERATION, ALMEDI AG AGISSA, SAYING: "The security situation is not easy, people are really scared of what is going on. You can see what is happening here for yourself. In fact there is mistrust which has set in, people don't trust each other anymore, no one knows what their neighbour is capable of, so really the situation is not easy." VARIOUS OF GOSSI BASE COMMANDER DAVID BARKHANE WALKING IN THE VEGETABLE PATCH WITH ALMEDI (SOUNDBITE) (French) GOSSI BASE COMMANDER, DAVID BARKHANE, SAYING: "Many of Gossi's youths have no work. This small project, this direct assistance to the population to that youth, represents an example for all the other youths who will see that with just a little bit of motivation and a little bit of work, they can get through it." VARIOUS OF SOLDIER AT GOSSI BARKHANE BASE ANIMALS NIBBLING TREE LEAVES / WEAPON SEEN IN FOREGROUND
- Embargoed: 26th August 2019 19:18
- Keywords: French Military Forces in Mali Barkhane Mali Military Forces FAMA jihadists counter terrorism Gourma District
- Location: NDAKI AND NEAR NDAKI AND GOSSI,GOURMA REGION, MALI
- City: NDAKI AND NEAR NDAKI AND GOSSI,GOURMA REGION, MALI
- Country: Mali
- Topics: Conflicts/War/Peace
- Reuters ID: LVA001AS1V8ZR
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: EDITORS PLEASE NOTE: PART QUALITY AS INCOMING
Sandstorms, thunderstorms and villagers reluctant to speak -- these were the conditions faced by hundreds of French troops and 100 allied Malians who were searching for 50-odd jihadists in Mali's savannas during an operation in Gourma district.
On the first day of the mission, in temperatures exceeding 40 degrees Celsius, French forces arrived in a hamlet nestled against a small wood 10km north of Ndaki, where suspected jihadists had been seen fleeing hours earlier.
They knew getting information out of terrified villagers would be difficult.
When they reached the villages where the suspected jihadists were hiding, they saw men tending cows, women pounding millet. Everyone smiled, and nobody told them anything.
They separated the women and children outside a thatched dome. They searched the men, took their smartphones and copied them onto a computer. One contained incriminating jihadist propaganda.
"Is this your telephone?" a soldier asked the suspect, and he nodded. They fingerprinted him, but with just circumstantial evidence, they let him go.
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.
On the rare reporting trip with French troops into central Mali, Reuters journalists saw first-hand why a five-year-old mission -- initially planned as a short-term stopgap to hand over to local forces -- may have many more years left to run.
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.
(Production: Christophe Van Der Perre, Yvonne Bell, Nina Hodgson)
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