U.S. intelligence is helping French forces monitor al-Qaeda weapons deliveries from Libya to the Sahel region in Africa.
A top French military official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he was not allowed to discuss the matter publicly, told the Associated Press that in the upcoming weeks, France will dispatch some of its troops to the Sahel region towards the Libya-Niger border, a lawless area overrun by Islamic jihadists.
U.S. intelligence has been helping the French forces in the region, according to the official.
He noted that French troops were able to intercept and destroy an arms convoy in northern Niger carrying three tons of weapons from Libya to Mali earlier this month.
An estimated 50 French troops will be permanently based in northern Niger, 60 miles from that country’s border with Libya, in an effort to “crisscross the zone up to the border and hamper as much as possible the traffic route,” the top French defense official said.
The French and Niger military will be able to provide reinforcements when necessary. Currently, French and American drones are operating out of Niamey, Niger’s capital.
France has deployed 3,000 soldiers, 200 armored vehicles, and six war jets to some countries in the Sahel region as part of an ongoing operation to root out al Qaeda-linked extremists.
Some jihadists from Libya have reportedly joined the ranks of the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) in Syria and Iraq. France is part of the U.S.-led campaign against the terrorist group.