France says head of ISIS in Sahara has been killed

French President Emmanuel Macron confirms death of Adnan Al Sahrawi

FILE PHOTO: French President Emmanuel Macron  walks through the Galerie des Bustes (Busts Gallery) to access the Versailles Palace in July 2017.   REUTERS/Etienne Laurent/Pool/File Photo

French President Emmanuel Macron late on Wednesday announced the death of the leader of ISIS's Sahara affiliate.

Mr Macron called Adnan Abu Walid Al Sahrawi’s killing “a major success” for the French military after more than eight years of fighting extremists in the sub-Sahara.

He tweeted that Al Sahrawi “was neutralised by French forces” but gave no further details.

Defence Minister Florence Parly said Sahrawi died following a strike by France's Barkhane force, which battles jihadists in the sub-Sahara. “It is a decisive blow against this terrorist group,” she tweeted. “Our fight continues.”

The militant leader was behind the killing of French aid workers in 2020 and was also wanted by the US over a deadly 2017 attack on its troops in Niger. The US Thad offered a $5 million reward for information on his whereabouts.

Rumours of the militant leader’s death had circulated for weeks in Mali, although there had been no confirmation by authorities in the region.

It was not immediately clear where Al Sahrawi was killed, although his group has been blamed for dozens of attacks along the border between Mali and Niger.

The French military has been fighting extremists in the sub-Sahara region, where it was once the colonial power, after intervening in northern Mali in 2013.

However Mr Macron in June announced a major scale back in France's anti-militant Barkhane force in the sub-Sahara after more than eight years of military presence in the vast region to refocus on counter-terrorism operations and supporting local forces.

Updated: September 16th 2021, 5:05 AM