BAMAKO, Mali — French forces have killed Abdelmalek Droukdel, the leader of Al Qaeda’s North Africa affiliate, France’s defense minister announced late Friday, in what would be a major victory for France after years of battling jihadists in the Sahel.
There was no immediate confirmation of his death from Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, known as AQIM, which has made millions of dollars abducting foreigners for ransom over the years and made large swaths of West Africa too dangerous for aid groups to access.
French Defense Minister Florence Parly tweeted that Droukdel and several of his allies were killed Wednesday in northern Mali by French forces and their partners. It was not immediately clear how his identity was confirmed by the French.
Droukdel’s reported death comes after French President Emmanuel Macron and the leaders of the G5 Sahel group — Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and Chad — launched a new plan in January to fight jihadists in the area. France deployed 600 additional soldiers to its Barkhane force, raising the number of troops there to 5,100.
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