French forces have killed the leader of Al-Qaeda within the Islamic Maghreb, Algerian Abdelmalek Droukdel, in northern Mali, France’s defence minister said.
Droukdel was killed on Thursday near the Algerian border, in which the group has bases from where it has carried out attacks and abductions of Westerners within the sub-Saharan Sahel zone, Defence Minister Florence Parly said Friday.
“Many close associates” of Droukdel — who commanded several affiliate jihadist groups over the lawless region — were also “neutralised”, she added.
Al-Qaeda within the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) emerged from the group started in the late 1990s by radical Algerian Islamists, who in 2007 pledged allegiance to Osama Bin Laden’s Al-Qaeda network.
The audience has claimed responsibility for a string of attacks on troops and civilians all over the Sahel, together with a 2016 attack by using an upmarket hotel and restaurant in Burkina Faso, which killed 30 people, mainly Westerners.
France has deployed a lot more than 5,000 troops to combat jihadist groups in the region — a largely lawless expanse stretching over Burkina Faso, Niger, Chad, Mauritania and Mali, where drugs and arms flow through porous borders.
Northern Mali may be the site of frequent clashes between rival armed groups, together with a haven for jihadist activity.
In 2012, key cities fell underneath the control over jihadist groups linked to Al-Qaeda, who exploited an ethnic Tuareg-led rebel uprising, creating a French-led military intervention.
Droukdel was an explosives expert and manufactured devices that killed hundreds of civilians in attacks on public places, according to the UN.
He was sentenced to death in Algeria in 2013 for his involvement from the bombings of a government offices and building of your UN’s refugee committee in Algiers that killed 26 people and wounded 177.
The US stated it had provided intelligence to help you hunt down Droukdel.
“US Africa Command managed to assist with intelligence and… support to fix the target,” spokesman Colonel Chris Karns told CNN on Friday.
France also claimed on Friday to possess captured a frontrunner of the Islamic State inside the Greater Sahara (EIGS) group, which performs frequent attacks over Niger’s western borders.
“On May 19, French forces captured Mohamed el Mrabat, veteran jihadist inside the Sahel region along with an important cadre in EIGS”, Parly said on Twitter.
Operations against EIGS “the other great terrorist threat inside the region” are continuing, said Parly.
Mali is struggling to contain an Islamist insurgency that erupted in 2012 and contains claimed thousands of civilian and military lives since.
Despite the inclusion of 1000s of French and UN troops, the conflict has engulfed the centre of the country and spread to neighbouring Burkina Niger and Faso.
A source told AFP that some 500 jihadist fighters have been killed or captured by French troops in the area recently, among them several leading figures including commanders and recruiters.
Droukdel’s death is really a symbolic coup for the French, a military source said.
He had remained a threat in the region, competent at financing jihadist movements, although his leadership was contested, the origin added.
His death, which of other Al Qaeda figures, could leave the group disorganised in the Sahel.
Born in 1971 within a poor neighbourhood of Algiers, Droukdel took part within the founding in Algeria from the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC).
Abdelaziz Bouteflika, elected Algerian president in 1999, been able to convince most of the armed groups in america to lay down their weapons.
The GSPC, however, refused to achieve this and Droukdel decided to approach Al-Qaeda.