French forces kill Al-Qaeda Chief in North Africa

French forces have killed the leader of al-Qaeda in North Africa, Abdelmalek Droukdel, in an operation in Mali.

Defence Minister Florence Parly said Droukdel along with members of his inner circle had been killed in the north of the country on Wednesday.

French forces had also captured a senior Islamic State group commander in Mali in an operation in May, she said.

The “daring operations” had dealt “severe blows to the terrorist groups”, she said.

“Our forces, in co-operation with their partners in the Sahel, will continue to hunt them relentlessly,” she said.

As head of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), Droukdel was in charge of all affiliates in north Africa and also commanded al-Qaeda’s Sahel affiliate, Jamaat Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimin (JNIM).

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The captured Islamic State group commander, Mohamed Mrabat, was a veteran jihadist and had a senior role in the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS) group, Ms. Parly said. He was caught on 19 May, she added.

On 7 May IS revealed its militants had been engaged in fierce clashes with al-Qaeda in Mali and Burkina Faso. It accused JNIM of attacking its positions, blocking fuel supplies, and detaining IS supporters.

ISGS has quickly established a foothold in the Sahel countries after announcing a presence in March last year.

Thousands of French troops have been deployed in Mali since 2013.

France, the former colonial power, became involved after Islamist militants overran parts of the north. With French help, Mali’s army has recaptured the territory, but insecurity continues and violence has spread to neighbouring countries.

More than 5,000 French troops have been serving as part of Operation Barkhane in support of the forces of Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Burkina Faso, and Chad.

However, they face a growing insurgency by jihadist groups, which have significantly stepped up their attacks in the Sahel countries since last year.




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