Breaking: Al Qaeda Leader in Maghreb Abdelmalek Droukdel killed
June 6, 2020
June 6, 2020
Defence Minister Florence Parly said Al-Qaeda chief in north Africa Abdelmalek Droukdel along with members of his inner circle had been killed in the north of Mali on 3 June 2020. She stated that French forces had also captured a senior Islamic State group commander in Mali in an operation conducted in May. France also declared that its forces in the Sahel alongside the regional armies will continue to hunt down the senior leadership of the insurgency groups.
In February 2019, French forces killed Algerian major JNIM field commander Yahya Abu al-Hammam AKA Djamel Okacha, who had been targeted as part of a three-car convoy by a Reaper surveillance drone.
France’s strategy in the Sahel includes the decapitation of terrorist groups so that the organisation will become weak, deprived of strategic direction and ideological appeal. However, the more a terrorist group resembles a corporate organizational chart — often with administrative, payroll and logistical staff — the more stable it is, and the better able to handle a leader’s death. Both JNIM and ISGS have proved their strong capabilities of recruitment, regrouping and mobilisation after the death of some of their leaders.
Who was Abdelmalek Droukdel?
As head of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), Droukdel was in charge of all affiliates in north Africa and also commanded al-Qaeda’s Sahel affiliate, Jamaat Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimin (JNIM).
He was around 40 years old, fought in Afghanistan, and was thought to regard the former leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, as his inspiration. In 2012 he was sentenced to death by a court in Algeria after being convicted in absentia of murder, membership of a terrorist organisation and attacks using explosives. The charges related to three bomb attacks in the capital Algiers in April 2007 which killed 22 people and wounded more than 200 others.
The captured Islamic State group commander, Mohamed Mrabat, was a veteran jihadist and had a senior role in the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS). He was captured on 19 May 2020 in a French and G-5 Sahel joint operation.
Clashes between Islamist insurgency groups in the Sahel
On 7 May, the ISGS revealed its militants had been engaged in fierce clashes with JNIM in Mali and Burkina Faso. It accused JNIM of attacking its positions, blocking fuel supplies and detaining ISGS supporters.
France in the Sahel
French-led Operation Serval began in Mali in January 2013, following two coups d’état organised by the Tuareg rebels and the Islamist insurgents who swapped the northern regions. In August 2014, the mission was extended into Operation Barkhane so that the French forces could combat the Islamist insurgents in areas outside the Malian borders as well. As for now, around 6,100 French troops are permanently stationed in N’Djamena, the capital of Chad.
Updates on the situation to follow…
Ana Maria Baloi is analyst at Grey Dynamics and a MA candidate at Brunel University London, where she studies Intelligence and Security. Her research is focused on China’s policy and strategy towards Africa.
In the last years, Ana has participated at numerous NATO Youth summits and Model United Nations conferences, while working as an intern for the Romanian Senate.