The leader of terrorist group Al-Qaeda’s north Africa affiliate has been killed in a French military operation following a seven-year hunt, the country’s defence minister announced last night.
Florence Parly has announced that Abdelmalek Droukdel and members of his inner circle were killed on Wednesday during the operation in the African country of Mali, where thousands of French troops have been deployed to tackle jihadist groups in the area.
A senior Islamic State (IS) group commander was also captured in an operation in May, she added.
Ms Parly said the operations had dealt ‘severe blows to the terrorist groups’.
Droukdel was the leader of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, known as AQIM.
The terrorist group have not yet confirmed the death of Droukdel .
The group have made millions of dollars abducting foreigners for ransom over the years and made large swaths of West Africa too dangerous for aid groups to access.
French Defense Minister Florence Parly tweeted that Droukdel and several of his allies were killed Wednesday in northern Mali by French forces and their partners.
It was not immediately clear how his identity was confirmed by the French.
Droukdel´s reported death comes after French President Emmanuel Macron and the leaders of the G5 Sahel group – Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and Chad -launched a new plan in January to fight jihadists in the area.
France deployed 600 additional soldiers as part of its Operation Barkhane – an ongoing anti-insurgent operation launched in August 2014 and led by the French.
The latest addition of troops raises the number of troops there to 5,100.
France, who were the former colonial power in the area, moved troops in after terrorist groups overran the northern area of Mali – which was eventually recaptured by the country’s army, though tensions are still rife in the area and around the borders with neighbouring countries.
In a March video released by the extremist monitoring group SITE, Droukdel urged governments of the Sahel region to try to end the French military presence, calling the troops ‘armies of occupation.’