French forces killed Abdelmalek Droukdel, the leader of al-Qaeda's North Africa affiliate, called al-Qaeda in Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), in northern Mali, France's Defence Minister Florence Parly announced on Friday. Droukdel, along with several of his affiliates were eliminated in an attack on Wednesday. In another operation in May, Mohamed el Mrabat, a leading commander of the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara was exterminated, Parly said further.
The "daring operations" have "dealt severe damage to these terrorist groups", she tweeted. "Our forces, in cooperation with their G5 Sahel partners, will continue to track them relentlessly," she added. France has deployed thousands of troops in Mali to fight Islamic terrorists.
The latest operations came after French President Emmanuel Macron and the leaders of the G5 Sahel group -- Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, and Niger, agreed in January, to step-up military co-operation to fight jihadist insurgency in the region.
Who Was Abdelmalek Droukdel?
Having served against the Soviet troops in Afghanistan, Droukdel, also known as Abu Musab Abdul Wadud, fought in Algeria's civil war in the 1990s. He rose among the top commanders of the Algerian insurgency movement in 2004. It was under his command that the Salafist Group for Call and Combat (GSPS) was transformed into al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.
Under his leadership, the terror group carried out several deadly attacks in the region. In 2007, he was sanctioned by the UN Security Council, BBC reported. Five years later, he was sentenced to death by a court in Algeria. He was convicted in absentia of murder, membership of a terrorist organization, and attacks using explosives. The charges stemmed from a 2007 bomb attack in the capital Algiers, that killed 22 and wounded over 200 civilians.
The group carried out a brutal attack as recently as in 2016 in Burkina Faso's capital Ouagadougou, in which 30 died and 130 were injured. He was the commander of all al-Qaeda groups in North Africa, including the Jama'a Nusrat ul-Islam wal-Muslimin (JNIM), that killed 10 UN peacekeepers in an attack in Mali in January, last year.
Although terrorist groups are quick to announce the death of their commanders, AQIM hasn't confirmed Droukdel's killing or his successor. The highly volatile region is witnessing an increasing enmity between AQIM and the Islamic States. On its part, France has deployed over 5,000 troops in the region to fight against jihadist terrorism.