Al-Qaeda leader Abdelmalek Droukdel killed in Mali
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- Abdelmalek Droukdel Abdelmalek Droukdel, also known by his nom de guerre as Abu...[+]
- Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb or AQIM, is an Islamist militant...[+]
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The leader of terrorist group Al-Qaeda’s north Africa affiliate has been killed in a French military operation following a seven-year hunt, the country’s defence minister announced last night
Florence Parly has announced that Abdelmalek Droukdel and members of his inner circle were killed on Wednesday during the operation in the African country of Mali, where thousands of French troops have been deployed to tackle jihadist groups in the area.
The operation to kill Droukdel reportedly involved helicopters and ground troops, who ‘neutralised’ a small group of men before formally identifying the leader’s body, and took place near the north-western Mali town of Tessalitm.
A senior Islamic State (IS) group commander was also captured in an operation in May, she added.
Ms Parly said the operations had dealt ‘severe blows to the terrorist groups’. Droukdel was the leader of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, known as AQIM. The terrorist group have not yet confirmed the death of Droukdel.
Droukdel was killed on Wednesday in Mali near the Algerian border, where the group reportedly had bases from which it carried out attacks and abductions of Westerners in the sub-Saharan Sahel zone, Defence Minister Florence Parly said Friday.
Colonel Frédéric Barbry, a military spokesman, explained that the operation took place ‘north of the Ifoghas adrar, 80 km east of Tessalit, and was carried out by an intervention module made up of helicopters and ground troops.’
French special forces ‘neutralised’ a small group of men, and were able to formally identify the body of Droukdel.
A French general involved in the operation said: ‘This one was made from crossings of French and American intelligence – Washington has important aerial surveillance means in the Sahel.’
The death of Droukdel – once regarded as Algeria’s enemy number one – could leave AQIM in disarray, French military sources suggested.
Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) emerged from a group started 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 numerous attacks on troops and civilians across the Sahel, including a 2016 attack on an upmarket hotel and restaurant in Burkina Faso, which killed 30 people, mainly Westerners.
Droukdel had evaded death on numerous occasions. In 2013, he was sentenced to death for his involvement in the bombings on a government building, the offices of the UN’s refugee committee in Algiers. The attack killed 26 people, wounding 177.
Northern Mali is the site of frequent clashes between rival armed groups, as well as a haven for jihadist activity.
In 2012, key cities fell under the control of jihadist groups linked to Al-Qaeda, who exploited an ethnic Tuareg-led rebel uprising, leading to a French-led military intervention.
According to the UN, Droukdel was an explosives expert and manufactured devices that killed hundreds of civilians in attacks on public places.
The group have made millions of dollars abducting foreigners for ransom over the years and made large swaths of West Africa too dangerous for aid groups to access.
French Defense Minister Florence Parly tweeted that Droukdel and several of his allies were killed Wednesday in northern Mali by French forces and their partners.
It was not immediately clear how his identity was confirmed by the French.
Droukdel´s reported death comes after French President Emmanuel Macron and the leaders of the G5 Sahel group – Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and Chad -launched a new plan in January to fight jihadists in the area.
France deployed 600 additional soldiers as part of its Operation Barkhane – an ongoing anti-insurgent operation launched in August 2014 and led by the French.
The latest addition of troops raises the number of troops there to 5,100.
France, who were the former colonial power in the area, moved troops in after terrorist groups overran the northern area of Mali – which was eventually recaptured by the country’s army, though tensions are still rife in the area and around the borders with neighbouring countries.
In a March video released by the extremist monitoring group SITE, Droukdel urged governments of the Sahel region to try to end the French military presence, calling the troops ‘armies of occupation.’
It was not clear how long Droukdel had been in Mali.
For years he was thought to be holed up in the Kabyle region east of the capital of his native Algeria.
He was widely seen as the symbolic leader of Al-Qaeda’s North African branch, whose operational centre for attacks shifted to northern Mali over the past decade.
That led to the French military invasion of the region in 2013 seeking to counter Islamist extremist designs on southern Mali and the capital, Bamako.
Droukdel made his reputation as a feared extremist leader in Algeria, which beginning in the early 1990s was convulsed by violence in what the nation now calls the ‘black decade.’
Droukdel´s Al-Qaeda’s affiliate had claimed responsibility for numerous deadly suicide bombings in Algeria, including targeting a United Nations building in Algiers in 2007, shattered by a vehicle packed with explosives.
More recently he had been commanding all the Al-Qaeda’s groups in North Africa and the Sahel, including the JNIM, which has claimed responsibility for attacks on the Malian military and U.N. peacekeepers trying to stabilise the volatile country.
Parly identified him as a member of Al-Qaeda´s ‘management committee.’
She said the operations dealt a ‘severe blow’ to terrorist groups in the region that have been operating for years despite the presence of thousands of French, U.N. and other African troops.
France also claimed on Friday to have captured a leader of the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (EIGS) group, which carries out frequent attacks over Niger’s western borders.
‘On May 19, French forces captured Mohamed el Mrabat, veteran jihadist in the Sahel region and an important cadre in EIGS’, Parly said on Twitter.
Operations against EIGS ‘the other great terrorist threat in the region’ are continuing, said Parly.
Mali is struggling to contain an Islamist insurgency that erupted in 2012 and has claimed thousands of military and civilian 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 region in recent months, among them several leading figures including commanders and recruiters.
Droukdel’s death is a symbolic coup for the French, a military source said.
He had remained a threat in the region, capable of financing jihadist movements, even though his leadership had been contested, the source added.
His death, and that of other Al Qaeda figures, could leave the group disorganised in the Sahel.
Born in 1971 in a poor neighbourhood of Algiers, Droukdel took part in the founding in Algeria of the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC).
Abdelaziz Bouteflika, elected Algerian president in 1999, managed to convince most of the armed groups in the country to lay down their weapons.
The GSPC, however, refused to do so and Droukdel decided to approach Al-Qaeda.
Source: Daily Mail