Al Qaeda chief in north Africa killed by French troops

5 June 2020, 23:18

Abdelmalek Droukdel, aka Abu Musab Abdul Wadud, head of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM)
Abdelmalek Droukdel, aka Abu Musab Abdul Wadud, head of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). Picture: PA
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

Al Qaeda's north Africa chief Abdelmalek Droukdel has been killed during a French military operation in Mali.

France's defence minister Florence Parly said Droukdel was killed in northern Mali on Wednesday, along with several of his entourage.

He was among North Africa's most experienced Islamist fighters and had been hunted by French troops for more than seven years.

Droukdel, who led all of al-Qaeda's affiliates in north Africa and commanded their Sahel associate, Jamaat Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimin, who also operate in Burkina Faso, was part of the militant takeover of northern Mali before France's troops intervened in 2013.

Aged in his late 40s and a native of Algeria, the Islamist militant fought in Afghanistan and was believed to regard the former leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, as his inspiration.

Droukdel was among North Africa's most experienced Islamist fighters
Droukdel was among North Africa's most experienced Islamist fighters. Picture: Getty

He fought in Algeria's civil war in the 1990s and claimed responsibility for several deadly attacks across the country.

In 2012, Droukdel was trialled in absentia in Algeria, receiving a death sentence after being convicted of murder, membership of a terrorist organisation and attacks using explosives.

Ms Parly said French forces in Mali also captured a leading Islamic State group commander, Mohamed Mrabat, in May.

Mrabat was a veteran jihadist and had a senior role in the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS) group, who are active in Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso.

The "daring operations" against al-Qaeda's "management committee" had dealt "severe blows to the terrorist groups", Ms Parly said.

"Our forces, in cooperation with their partners in the Sahel, will continue to hunt them relentlessly," she added.

France has had thousands of troops deployed in Mali since 2013 after Islamist militants overran parts of the north.

The territory was recaptured by the French and Malian armies, however the region remains unstable and violence has spread to nearby countries.

Roughly 4,500 French troops have been serving as part of Operation Barkhane in support of the forces of Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Burkina Faso and Chad.

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