One of the Sahel regions leading fighter in Mali was confirmed killed by the French troops on Friday, according to France’s Defence Minister, Florence Parly.
The number two in command, Yahia Abou Hamman, of the Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimin (JNIM), which is the umbrella body of the al Qaeda-linked insurgents in West Africa’s Sahara, was taken out by the troops.
Concise News gathered that the group, which claimed responsibility for a spate of attacks to disrupt Mali’s election in July, and more recent strikes in Burkina Faso, was attacked by the French troops.
“The removal of a prominent leader helps to dismantle the networks and disrupt terrorist activities in the region,” Parly said.
“Soldiers belonging to France’s Barkhane force, deployed in the Sahel, identified Hamman as he travelled in a convoy north of Timbuktu on Feb. 21.’’
She added that in an operation involving air and ground assets, French troops killed several militants, including Hamman.
Violence by Islamist militants has proliferated in the sparsely-populated Sahel in recent years, with groups linked to al-Qaeda and Islamic State using central and northern Mali as a launch pad for attacks across the largely desert region.
French forces intervened in Mali, a former French colony, with the support of the Bamako government in 2013 to isolate a Tuareg uprising that broke out a year earlier.
Some 4,500 French troops remain based in the wider Sahel, most of them in Mali.
The UN Security Council then deployed peacekeepers, which have been targets of a concerted guerrilla campaign.