Bamako, Mali-The French President announced on Wednesday night that the leader of the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara had been killed, saying that Adnan Abu Walid Sahrawi had fought extremists in the Sahel for more than eight years Later, the killing was a “major success” for the French army.
French President Emmanuel Macron said on Twitter that the Sahara was “eliminated by the French army” but did not provide more details. Although the Islamic State is active on the border between Mali and Niger, it has not announced where al-Sarahwi was killed.
Macron wrote on Twitter: “Tonight, the whole country is missing all the heroes, families who lost their loved ones, and all the wounded for France in Operation Serval and Balkans in the Sahel.” “Their sacrifices were not. In vain.”
Rumors about the death of the radical leader have been circulating in Mali for several weeks, but the authorities in the region have yet to confirm the news. It is not possible to independently verify the claim immediately or understand how the remains were identified.
“This is a decisive blow to this terrorist organization,” French Defense Minister Florence Pali wrote on Twitter. “Our battle continues.”
Al-Sahrawi claimed responsibility for the 2017 attack in Niger, which resulted in the deaths of 4 U.S. military personnel and 4 Niger military personnel. His organization also kidnapped foreigners in the Sahel and is believed to still be holding the American Jeffrey Woodk, who was kidnapped at his home in Niger in 2016.
The extremist leader was born in the disputed Western Sahara territory and later joined the Polisario Front. After spending some time in Algeria, he traveled to northern Mali, where he became an important figure in the MUJAO organization that controlled Gao, the main northern town in 2012.
The following year, a French-led military operation drove Islamic extremists from power in Gao and other northern cities, but these elements later regrouped and launched another attack.
The Malian organization MUJAO is loyal to Al-Qaida affiliates in the region. But in 2015, al-Sahrawi released an audio message swearing allegiance to the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria.
Since its intervention in northern Mali in 2013, the French army has been fighting Islamic extremists in the Sahel region, which was once a colonial power of France. However, it recently announced that it will reduce its military presence in the area and plans to withdraw 2,000 soldiers early next year.
The news of the death of the Sahara comes as the global struggle between France and the Islamic State is making headlines in Paris. The main defendant in the 2015 Paris attack trial said on Wednesday that these coordinated killings were in retaliation for the French air strikes against the Islamic State group, saying that the deaths of 130 innocent people were “not personal” because he had admitted his role for the first time.