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France kills al-Qaida head of North Africa

June 6, 2020

France said Abdelmalek Droukdal was killed during an operation in Mali. Droukdal was the head of all al-Qaida affiliates in North Africa.

Abdelmalek Droukdal
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/AFP/T. Coex

French Minister of the Armed Forces Florence Parly confirmed on Friday that France and its military partners had killed Abdelmalek Droukdal, the North African head of the terror network, al-Qaida. Parly said Droukdal and some of his "close collaborators" were killed during an operation in the West African country of Mali.

Parly also revealed that France had captured Mohamed el Mrabat, a senior IS commander in Mali, in May. France has about 5,100 forces in the North Africa region.

Read more: Mali's security crisis: A cycle of exploitation and corruption

Who was Droukal?

Droukdal headed all al-Qaida affiliates in North Africa and also commanded the Jamaat Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimin (JNIM), an active terrorist group in the Sahel Strip of West Africa. The JNIM battled the "Islamic State" terror group in severe jihadi in-fighting in early May when the JNIM attacked IS positions and blocked fuel supplies.

Droukdal was part of a militant takeover of north Mali before his fighters were driven away by French military forces in 2013. He was part of several terrorist attacks, including a deadly attack on hotel in the capital of Burkina Faso, which killed 30 people. He was sentenced to death in Algeria in 2012 for organizing three bomb attacks in the country's capital.

France's role in North Africa

Droukdal's death comes six months after France combined its military forces G5 Sahel countries — Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger — under one command structure to fight IS-linked militants.

French troops during exercises in Burkina Faso
French troops in the Sahel regionImage: picture-alliance/dpa/P. de Poulpiquet

Read moreAnti-French sentiment on the rise in West Africa as security situation deteriorates

France, the former colonial power in the region, become militarily involved seven years ago after IS militants took over parts of northern Mali. However, the European country has recently become unpopular after militants strengthened their hold in the region and begun stoking ethnic violence. (https://www.dw.com/en/mali-more-than-100-killed-in-ethnic-massacre/a-48041048)

"When Operation Serval began in 2013 to dislodge the jihadists, who were then occupying all the major urban centers in the north of Mali, it was thought it would be a problem that would be quickly resolved. They (France) did chase out the jihadists, although they did not chase them out completely. It's now seven years later and the problem is most definitely getting worse," Dakar-based independent reporter, Bram Posthumus, told DW in December 2019.

am/sms (AFP, Reuters)

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