French forces kill long-time extremist in Mali amid pullout
PARIS (AP) — French forces in Mali have killed a long-time al-Qaida official active in Algeria and Libya, French military authorities said Monday.
France’s army chief of staff said in a statement that Algerian Yahia Djouadi, who went by the name Abou Ammar al Jazairi, was killed north of Timbuktu Feb. 26 in a ground operation supported by a helicopter and two drones.
The operation took place about 100 kilometers (60 miles) north of Timbuktu in a zone known as a hideout for al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQMI) and two other extremist groups, including the JNIM, a coalition of jihadi groups.
The operation was significant for France because it’s in the process of withdrawing its forces from Mali to reposition them elsewhere in the region.
The decision to withdraw was announced last month amid increasing hostility toward the French armed presence in Mali. France moved into Mali in 2013 in an effort to stop a drive by Islamist extremists into Bamako, the capital.
Islamists have regrouped and continue to pose a major threat. On March 4, at least 27 Malian soldiers were killed while repulsing an attack by an armed group, leaving 47 of the attackers dead, according to Malian authorities. Two Malian soldiers were killed Monday.
The statement said that Djaoudi’s killing demonstrates that French forces continue to mark battlefield successes despite the withdrawal.
Djaoudi got his start with the Armed Islamic Group in Algeria, which terrorized Algeria in the early 1990s at the start of the country’s “black decade” that left an estimated 200,000 people, soldiers, civilians and extremists, dead.
The GIA was dissolved and Djaoudi eventually became military aide to Abdelmalek Droukdel, AQMI chief until French forces in Mali killed him in June 2020. Djaoudi also worked for the al-Qaida arm in Libya before relocating to Timbuktu, Mali in 2019, the French statement said. He coordinated supplies for AQMI and JNIM as well as assisting in financing.