French military forces based in North Africa have reportedly killed a senior militant linked to the al-Qaeda terrorist group.
French government officials said the country’s special forces killed Abdelmalek Droukdel, along with several members of his inner circle, in a joint military operation in northern Mali on Wednesday.
Droukdel, who was a 50-year-old Algerian national, led an extremist group affiliated with al-Qaeda and was reportedly in charge of all the affiliates of the terrorist group in North Africa. He also commanded al-Qaeda’s Sahel affiliate.
French Defense Minister Florence Parly said French forces had also captured a senior Daesh commander, Mohamed Mrabat, in an operation in Mali in May.
The “daring” operations dealt “severe blows to the terrorist groups,” she wrote in a statement on Twitter on Saturday, adding, “Our forces, in co-operation with their partners in the Sahel, will continue to hunt them relentlessly.”
United States Africa Command (US AFRICOM) Director of Public Affairs Col. Christopher Karns said the United States had provided the French with intelligence and surveillance aircraft to help with the mission.
Droukdal’s group, which reportedly pledged allegiance to al-Qaeda in 2006, was responsible for deadly terrorist operations in Algeria, Mauritania, Mali, Niger, Tunisia, and Libya. It financed military operations by kidnapping foreigners and extracting ransoms from their governments.
France, a former colonial power, maintains its influence within Africa with a significant military presence.
French forces deployed in the region are waging “counter-insurgency” operations in Mali and the wider Sahel, an arid region of West Africa below the Sahara Desert.
Currently, there are some 4,500 French troops in the Sahel region.