President Emmanuel Macron has announced that the leader of the ISIL (ISIS)-affiliated Islamic State in Sahara (ISGS) group has been killed by French troops.
“[Adnan Abu Walid al-Sahrawi], leader of the terrorist group Islamic State in the Greater Sahara was neutralised by French forces,” Macron tweeted on Thursday.
“This is another major success in our fight against terrorist groups in the Sahel,” Macron added, without providing details or location of the operation.
French Defence Minister Florence Parly, however, gave more information in her tweet.
She write that Sahrawi died after a strike by France’s Operation Barkhane force, which fights Islamist militants in the Sahel, mostly in Mali, Niger, Chad and Burkina Faso.
She added that it was “a decisive blow against this terrorist group”, and that the “fight continues”.
Although rumours of the ISGS leader’s death had circulated for weeks in Mali, it wasn’t confirmed until now.
ISGS group, created in 2015, is blamed for most attacks in the region, including the targeted killing of French aid workers in 2020 which Sahrawi reportedly led.
Sahrawi, who was born in the disputed territory of Western Sahara in 1973, and had been a member of the Polisario Front which is fighting for independence from Morocco.
He later joined al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and co-led Mujao, a Malian Islamist group responsible for kidnapping Spanish aid workers in Algeria and a group of Algerian diplomats in Mali in 2012.
Last August, Sahrawi personally ordered the killing of six French charity workers and their Nigerien guides and drivers, the French presidency said.