France has on Friday said that its military has killed al-Qaeda North Africa chief Abdelmalek Droukdel during an operation in Mali. Abdelmalek Droukdel is a key fighter who its forces had been hunting for more than seven years.
The statement written by French Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly on Twitter reads: “On June 3, French army forces, with the support of their local partners, killed the emir of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, Abdelmalek Droukdel, and several of his closest collaborators, during an operation in northern Mali”.
There was no immediate confirmation of his death from al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, known as AQIM.
The reported death of Abdelmalek Droukdel’s comes almost six months after French President Emmanuel Macron met with the leaders of the G5 Sahel group.– The meeting launched a new plan combining their military forces under one command structure to fight armed groups linked to al-Qaeda and the ISIL (ISIS) group. The G5 Sahel group include Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and Chad.
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France, a former colonial power in the region, deployed 600 additional soldiers to its Barkhane force. This raised the number of troops there to 5,100.
In a March video released by the monitoring group SITE, Droukdel urged governments of the Sahel region to try to end the French military presence, calling the troops “armies of occupation”.
Abdelmalek Droukdel’s Previous Activities
Abdelmalek Droukdel an Algerian native was among North Africa’s most experienced fighters. He took part in al-Qaeda’s takeover of northern Mali before a French military intervention in 2013. The intervention drove them back and scattered fighters across the Sahel region.
Abdelmalek Droukdel was believed to be hiding in the mountains of northern Algeria. AQIM was the dominant force in the region, staging several high-profile deadly attacks until 2013. This was when it fractured and many fighters flocked to ISIL as it seized territory in Iraq, Syria and Libya.
It remained active in North Africa’s largely desert and often scarcely governed Sahel region. In Mali, it focused its activities to the north in Libya and Tunisia. As ISIL waned, the al-Qaeda group has sought to lure new talent from among ISIL veterans.