French military forces killed the head of a West African branch of Daesh in a drone strike in a “decisive blow” against the group, and promised to continue hunting down militia leaders to restore stability in the Sahel.
Adnan Abu Walid al-Sahrawi was the head of a Daesh-affiliated group that split from other militants in Mali in 2015.
Since then, the group’s militants have spread to neighboring Burkina Faso and Niger, carried out hundreds of deadly attacks against civilians and armed forces, and made large areas of the arid Sahel region of South Africa ungovernable. ‘Where is.
French Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly told reporters that Sahrawi’s death was a “decisive blow” for the group and its cohesion.
The Saharawis had been tracked down by French counterterrorism forces in northern Mali and then killed by a drone strike while riding motorcycles in mid-August, she said.
France estimates the group is responsible for the deaths of 2,000 to 3,000 people, mostly Muslims, and that it still has hundreds of fighters, although Parly said its leadership was now less international and more out of touch. the local Fulani tribe.
The Saharawis targeted American soldiers in a deadly attack in 2017, Macron’s office said. In August 2020, he personally ordered the murder of six French charity workers and their Nigerian driver, France said.
Paris began reshaping its 5,000-man Barkhane mission to include more European partners and earlier this month began redeploying from bases in northern Mali.
France has launched a diplomatic offensive to prevent the Malian junta from agreeing to an agreement to enlist Russian mercenaries, which Paris said would be incompatible with its presence in Mali.
The strike against the Saharawis, which comes just two months after the death of Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau in Nigeria, follows further blows to the group’s senior officials, who have been weakened by recent targeted operations who killed five of its top seven leaders. .
Yet the group remains dangerous and has carried out a series of deadly attacks against civilians, notably in Niger, where the number of victims has risen sharply this year.
âWe have no information on a successor at this point, but it probably won’t be easy to find a leader who has the same weight as the one who was killed,â Parly said.
Bernard Emie, head of the French foreign intelligence service, told reporters that the focus will now be on neutralizing Iyad Ag Ghaly, the head of the North African wing of al-Qaeda, whose group has carried out sporadic operations around CÃ´te d’Ivoire and Senegalese border regions.
“Saharawi’s death is likely to disrupt ISGS operations in the short term,” said Alexandre Raymakers, senior analyst for Africa at risk intelligence firm Verisk Maplecroft. “But he is unlikely to permanently cripple the extremist group.”