Jihadists (illustration)
Jihadists (illustration)iStock

France said on Friday its military forces killed Al-Qaeda’s North Africa chief, Abdelmalek Droukdel, a key Islamist fighter that its forces had been hunting for more than seven years, during an operation in Mali.

“On June 3, French army forces, with the support of their local partners, killed the emir of al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, Abdelmalek Droukdel, and several of his closest collaborators, during an operation in northern Mali,” French Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly wrote on Twitter, according to Reuters.

Droukdel was among North Africa’s most experienced jihadists. He took part in an Islamist takeover of northern Mali before a French military intervention in 2013 drove them back and scattered fighters across the Sahel region. He was believed to be hiding in the mountains of northern Algeria.

Parly said that French forces, which number about 5,100 in the region, had also on May 19 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, according to Reuters.

Al-Qaeda North Africa, or Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), was the dominant jihadist force in the region, staging several high-profile deadly attacks until 2013, when it fractured as many militants flocked to the more extremist Islamic State (ISIS) as it seized territory in Iraq, Syria and Libya.

The group remained active in North Africa’s largely desert and often scarcely governed Sahel region. In Mali, it focused its activities to the north in Libya and Tunisia. As ISIS waned, it has sought to lure new talent from among ISIS veterans.

AQIM and has in the past threatened France with attacks over its “hostility to Islam”.

In 2018, Tunisian security forces killed a top aide of AQIM’s leader near the country’s border with Algeria.

(Arutz Sheva’s North American desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Arutz Sheva articles, however, is Israeli time.)