French army says senior Al-Qaeda leader killed in Mali

AFP , Monday 7 Mar 2022

France's army said Monday that its anti-jihadist force in Mali had killed Yahia Djouadi, a "senior leader" of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) responsible for finance and logistics.

French soldiers
File Photo: Malian and French soldiers on patrol in Mali, where France has been aiding counter-insurgency efforts. REUTERS

Djouadi, an Algerian also known as Abu Ammar al-Jazairi, was killed overnight from February 25 to 26 around (160 kilometres (100 miles) north of Timbuktu in central Mali, the army said in a statement.

His death "once again weakens Al-Qaeda's governance" in Mali, it added, calling him "a major link in northern Mali and especially the Timbuktu area" to the Qaeda-aligned GSIM group.

A former "emir" of Al-Qaeda's Libyan operations, Djouadi fled to Mali in 2019 and settled in the Timbuktu region, helping organise the group and coordinating supplies, financing and logistics, the army said.

It added that he was killed by ground forces supported by a Tiger attack helicopter and two drones.

France is preparing to redeploy some 2,400 troops away from Mali to other countries in the Sahel region facing cross-border jihadist insurgencies, after falling out with the military junta in Bamako.

While the pullout is set to stretch over six months, the army said that "operations continue against armed terrorist groups, especially against the top leaders of Al-Qaeda, GSIM and the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS) group."

French forces first intervened in Mali in 2013, but disputes between Paris and Bamako since a 2020 coup have prompted the military government to turn to other allies like Russia's Wagner paramilitary group.

Even with international allies on the ground, the Malian state has struggled to reassert control of territory from the jihadist insurgency that began in the country's north in 2012 and has since spread to neighbouring Niger and Burkina Faso.

The fighting has claimed thousands of lives and forced hundreds of thousands of people to flee their homes.

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