French forces have killed the best choice of Al-Qaeda from 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 through which they have carried out attacks and abductions of Westerners in the sub-Saharan Sahel zone, Defence Minister Florence Parly said Friday.
“Many close associates” of Droukdel — who commanded several affiliate jihadist groups across the lawless region — were also “neutralised”, she added.
Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) emerged from a group began in the late 1990s by radical Algerian Islamists, who in 2007 pledged allegiance to Osama Bin Laden’s Al-Qaeda network.
The group has claimed responsibility for any string of attacks on troops and civilians all over the Sahel, such as a 2016 attack by using an upmarket hotel and restaurant in Burkina Faso, which killed 30 people, mainly Westerners.
France has deployed over 5,000 troops to combat jihadist groups in the region — a largely lawless expanse stretching over Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania, Chad and Niger, where drugs and arms flow through porous borders.
Northern Mali is definitely the site of frequent clashes between rival armed groups, as well as a haven for jihadist activity.
In 2012, key cities fell underneath the power over jihadist groups related to Al-Qaeda, who exploited an ethnic Tuareg-led rebel uprising, resulting in 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 within the bombings of your government offices and building from the UN’s refugee committee in Algiers that killed 26 people and wounded 177.
America said it had provided intelligence to aid find Droukdel.
“US Africa Command could aid in intelligence and… support to correct the prospective,” spokesman Colonel Chris Karns told CNN on Friday.
France also claimed on Friday to get captured a frontrunner of your 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 plus an important cadre in EIGS”, Parly said on Twitter.
Operations against EIGS “the other great terrorist threat from the region” are continuing, said Parly.
Mali is struggling to contain an Islamist insurgency that erupted in 2012 and has claimed thousands of civilian and military lives since.
Despite the presence of thousands of French and UN troops, the conflict has engulfed the centre of the country and spread to neighbouring Burkina Faso and Niger.
A source told AFP that some 500 jihadist fighters had been killed or captured by French troops in the area recently, one of them several leading figures including commanders and recruiters.
Droukdel’s death can be a symbolic coup for your French, a military source said.
He had remained a threat in the region, effective at financing jihadist movements, even though his leadership was contested, the original source added.
His death, and this of other Al Qaeda figures, could leave the group disorganised from the Sahel.
Born in 1971 in the poor neighbourhood of Algiers, Droukdel took part within the founding in Algeria of the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC).
Abdelaziz Bouteflika, elected Algerian president in 1999, managed to convince a lot of the armed groups in the country to lay down their weapons.
The GSPC, however, refused to accomplish this and Droukdel chose to approach Al-Qaeda.