French forces in northern Mali have killed al-Qaida’s north Africa (AQMI) chief, a key Islamist fighter that its forces had been hunting for more than seven years.
“On June 3, French army forces with the support of their local partners, killed al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb’s emir, Abdelmalek Droukdel, and several of his closest collaborators, during an operation in northern Mali,” the French armed forces minister, Florence Parly, wrote on Twitter on Friday.
Droukdel was among north Africa’s most experienced militants and took part in the Islamist militant takeover of northern Mali before a French military intervention in 2013 drove them back and scattered fighters across the Sahel region.
Droukdel was believed to be hiding in the mountains of northern Algeria. The group operates across northern Mali, Niger, Mauritania and Algeria.
Parly said that French forces, which number about 5,200 in the region, had also on 19 May captured Mohamed el Mrabat, a fighter she identified as a veteran militant in the region and member of Islamic State in the Greater Sahara.
“Our forces, in cooperation with their local partners ... will continue to track these [people] down without respite,” Parly said.