France says it killed ISIS leader behind deaths of U.S. soldiers, hails big victory

PARIS — France killed the chief of the Islamic State group within the Larger Sahara, French officers mentioned Thursday, calling him “enemy No. 1” in protracted anti-terrorism efforts within the area.

French President Emmanuel Macron introduced the dying of Adnan Abu Walid al-Sahrawi in a single day.

Based on Macron’s workplace, al-Sahrawi personally ordered the killing of six French support employees and their Nigerien colleagues final yr, and his group was behind a 2017 assault that killed U.S. and Niger army personnel.

This undated picture offered by Rewards For Justice reveals a needed posted of Adnan Abu Walid al-Sahrawi, chief of Islamic State group within the Larger Sahara.Rewards For Justice through AP

He was killed in a strike by France’s Barkhane army operation “a couple of weeks in the past,” however authorities waited to make sure of his identification earlier than making the announcement, French Protection Minister Florence Parly informed RFI radio Thursday.

She didn’t disclose particulars of the operation or the place al-Sahrawi was killed, although ISIS is energetic alongside the border between Mali and Niger.

“He was on the origin of massacres and terror,” French Overseas Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian mentioned Thursday on France-Information radio. He urged African governments to fill the void and seize again floor taken by the extremists.

Rumors of the militant chief’s dying had circulated for weeks in Mali, although authorities within the area had not confirmed it. It was not instantly potential to independently confirm the declare or to know the way the stays had been recognized.

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Al-Sahrawi had claimed accountability for a 2017 assault in Niger that killed 4 U.S. army personnel and 4 individuals with Niger’s army. His group additionally has kidnapped foreigners within the Sahel and is believed to nonetheless be holding American Jeffrey Woodke, who was kidnapped from his house in Niger in 2016.

The extremist chief was born within the disputed territory of Western Sahara and later joined the Polisario Entrance. After spending time in Algeria, he made his option to northern Mali the place he turned an vital determine within the group referred to as MUJAO that managed the most important northern city of Gao in 2012.

A French-led army operation the next yr ousted Islamic extremists from energy in Gao and different northern cities, although these parts later regrouped and once more carried out assaults.

The Malian group MUJAO was loyal to the regional al-Qaida affiliate. However in 2015, al-Sahrawi launched an audio message pledging allegiance to the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria.

France, the area’s former colonial energy, not too long ago introduced that it could be decreasing its army presence within the area, with plans to withdraw 2,000 troops by early subsequent yr.

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