Al Qaeda and Ansar Dine regional leaders have been killed in a Mali raid, the French defense ministry has said. The al Qaeda chief allegedly masterminded abduction and execution of French journalists.
Islamist commanders Amada Ag Hama and Ibrahim Ag Inawalen, alongside two more terrorists, were killed in a raid by French special forces earlier this week, officials in Paris said on Wednesday.
Ag Hama, also known as Abdelkrim the Tuareg, was leading a Tuareg-dominated force inside mostly Algerian battalion of al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. The group aims to overthrow the Algerian government and establish an Islamic State.
The al Qaeda leader has been linked to many murders, including the kidnapping and killing of two French journalists in 2013.
"France has a long memory," said Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, referring to the execution of the journalists.
Ag Hama is also a cousin of Iyad Ag Ghaly, commander of Ansar Dine, a different terror group also active in Mali.
The other Jihadi leader, Ag Inawalen, was a lower level leader in Ansar Dine.
Terrorism purge across Africa
The French defense ministry described the two men as "important terrorist bosses" adding that the northern Mali operation "is a fresh blow to armed terrorist groups" in the region.
Militants linked with al Qaeda seized vast chunks of territory in sparsely-populated northern Mali, before French-led military intervention in 2013 pushed them out. The mission has since morphed into a counter-terrorism operation across Mauritania Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and Chad.
The initiative involves a total of 3,000 troops from France, including some 1,200 in northeastern Mali, which was once a French colony.
Attack in the capital
Despite the presence of the French troops and UN peacekeepers, the country remains unstable, burdened by extremism and the conflict between Tuareg rebels and Bamako government.
On Wednesday, a gunmen tried to set fire to a United Nations vehicle in Bamako, the UN mission in Mali said in a statement.
"Before running away, the attacker shot the guard who was injured, as well as the cars in front of the house," causing property damage and leaving behind two unexploded grenades, the statement said.
dj/msh (AP, dpa, AFP, Reuters)