France says it killed two important Al Qaeda figures in northwest Africa

Mali FranceJoe Penney/ReutersA French soldier from Operation Barkhane patrols in Timbuktu, Mali on November 5, 2014.

French special forces operating in Africa’s Sahel region have killed two key members of the Islamist militant group, Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, a defence ministry statement said on Wednesday, according to Reuters.

The statement described the two as “important terrorist chiefs” and named them as Amada Ag Hama, also known as “Abdelkrim the Touareg” and Ibrahim Ag Inawalen, alias “Bana”.

It said they were among four killed during an operation in northern Mali the night of May 17 and 18.

France’s intervention against Islamists in Mali in 2013 has mutated into a broader, regional mission to hunt down Islamists across the Sahel. Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb is considered to be one of the most threatening of the group’s affiliates. The group was involved in the jihadist takeover of northern Mali following the country’s 2012 military coup, and has received an estimated $US91.5 million in kidnapping ransoms since 2008, according to the New York Times.

The group is also responsible for the 2013 attack and hostage crisis at the In Amenas natural gas facility in Algeria in which 40 people were killed.

French troops have been deployed to the Sahel since 2013, when Operation Serval wrested northern Mali from jihadist control while stanching a jihadist offensive against Mali’s populous south. France has also had a long-term military presence in northern Niger, home to a uranium mining complex that accounts for around 20% of France’s domestic needs.

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