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France announces death of top Sahel jihadist

French commando from Barkhane in the Timbuktu region of Mali
French commando from Barkhane in the Timbuktu region of Mali RFI/O. Fourt
2 min

French forces have killed a top al-Qaeda commander, Yahya Abou El Hamame, described as the mastermind and financer of several jihadist attacks, in an operation in northern Mali, according to the Defence Ministry.

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"The removal of a prominent leader helps to dismantle the networks and disrupt terrorist activities in the region," Defence Minister Florence Parly said in a statement.

It come hours before French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe touched down in Mali, accompanied by Parly and Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian.

On Thursday, French Barkhane forces started an operation north of Timbuktu after they found three suspicious vehicles and decided to intercept them, Colonel Guillaume Thomas, deputy spokesperson for the Major General, told RFI.

“When the commandos arrived at the scene, they were fired on by the people in the vehicles, which was neutralised by a helicopter on the scene,” he said.

Algerian leader Yahya Abou El Hammame was killed in the operation. He was the number two in command of Jama'at Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimin (JNIM), which contains a number of al-Qaeda-linked combatants in the Sahel region.

The group had previously claimed attacks during Mali’s 2018 elections as well as in Burkina Faso.

France has contributed some 4,500 soldiers in the north of Mali as part of the G5 Sahel counter-terrorism force that includes Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger in order to combat jihadist organisations in the region.

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