The head of Islamic State in the Greater Sahara, who was wanted for deadly attacks on US soldiers and foreign aid workers, has been killed in an operation by French troops.
Adnan Abu Walid al-Sahrawi was “neutralized by French forces”, President Emmanuel Macron wrote on Twitter early on Thursday. “This is another major success in our fight against terrorist groups in the Sahel,” he wrote, without giving the location or details of the operation.
Sahrawi had been tracked by French counter-terrorism forces in northern Mali, and then killed by a drone strike while riding a motorbike in mid-August, she said. France estimates the group is responsible for the deaths of 2,000-3,000 people, mostly Muslims, and that it still has hundreds of fighters, although Parly said its leadership was now less international and more from the local Fulani tribe.
Sahrawi targeted U.S. soldiers in a deadly attack in 2017, Macron’s office said. In August 2020, he personally ordered the killing of six French charity workers and their Nigerian driver, France said.
Bernard Emie, head of France’s external intelligence service, told reporters there would now be increased focus on neutralizing Iyad Ag Ghaly, the head of al-Qaeda’s north African wing, whose group has carried out sporadic operations around the Ivory Coast and Senegalese border regions.
“The death of Sahrawi will likely disrupt ISGS operations in the short-term,” said Alexandre Raymakers, senior Africa analyst at risk intelligence company Verisk Maplecroft. “But it is unlikely to permanently cripple the extremist group.”