France has hailed the killing of the head of Al-Qaeda’s North Africa wing in an operation that dealt a blow to the group behind a string of deadly attacks across the troubled Sahel region.
Abdelmalek Droukdel was killed by French troops on Thursday in northern Mali near the Algerian border, where the group has bases it uses to carry out bombings and abductions of Westerners, Defence Minister Florence Parly said.
Many close associates of the Algerian — who commanded several groups under the banner of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) — were also “neutralised”, she said on Friday, describing the operation as a “major success”.
Parly also announced the capture last month of a senior figure from a regional offshoot of the so-called Islamic State group, in a double strike against the rival jihadist groups.
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 said it has carried out numerous attacks on troops and civilians across the Sahel, including a 2016 attack on an upmarket hotel and restaurant in Burkina Faso that killed 30 people, mainly Westerners.
The death of Droukdel — once regarded as Algeria’s enemy number one — could leave AQIM in disarray, French military sources said.
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