France's President Emmanuel Macron announced on early Thursday that its military forces have killed Adnan Abu Walid al-Sahrawi, the leader of Islamic State in Greater Sahara (ISGS). Calling it a major success Macron said that al-Sahrawi was killed in an operation by French troop that involved fierce fighting.
"This is another major success in our fight against terrorist groups in the Sahel," Macron said, without giving the location or details of the operation. Defence Minister Florence Parly said Sahrawi died following a strike by France's Barkhane force, which battles jihadists in the Sahel.
The ISGS is responsible for most of the terrorist attacks in the "tri-border area" straddling Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso. The Al-Qaeda-affiliated Group for the Support of Islam and Muslims (GSIM) is also active in the area. Sahrawi's death definitely is a major success against global terrorism and Macron said that France's fight against terrorism doesn't end with his death.
"The nation is thinking tonight of all its heroes who died for France in the Sahel in the Serval and Barkhane operations, of the bereaved families, of all of its wounded," Macron also said. "Their sacrifice is not in vain."
"It is a decisive blow against this terrorist group. Our fight continues," Parly tweeted confirming Sahrawi's death.
Sahrawi was a dreaded terrorist leader of Islamic State in the Sahel region of West Africa and his group time and again targeted US soldiers. The biggest of the attacks against US troops took place in Niger in 2017.
Besides, last year in August, Sahrawi personally ordered the killing of six French charity workers and their Nigerian driver, Macron's office said.
Sahrawi's death will somewhat weaken ISGS but the war against terrorism is far from over, as new leaders emerge immediately with the death of one. That said, Sahrawi's death is being seen as a major success by the international community.
The terrorist leader's group also has abducted several foreigners in the Sahel over the years. It is believed that the group is still holding American Jeffrey Woodke, who was abducted from his home in Niger in 2016.
Sahrawi was born in the disputed territory of Western Sahara and later joined the Polisario Front. After spending time in Algeria, he made his way to northern Mali where he became an important figure in the group known as MUJAO that controlled the major northern town of Gao in 2012.
In 2015, he formed ISGS. Since then he was one of the most wanted terrorists globally. The United States had offered a $5 million reward for information on Sahrawi's whereabouts.
However, he became a prime target of the French military after the group was involved in the killing of several French soldiers. The French military has also tracked down a number of high-ranking members of ISGS under its strategy of targeting jihadist leaders since the start of its military intervention in Mali in 2013.