On Friday, members of the French armed forces and their allies killed the emir of Al Qaeda, with the US military providing intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance support.
Abdelmalek Droukdal, the emir — or chief — of the West African Al Qaeda offshoot was killed during a French military operation in northern Mali in territory controlled by Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) terror group, according to a Monday press release by the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM). Florence Parly, the Minister for the French armed forces, also confirmed the operation against Droukdal.
As emir, Droukdal was involved in all aspects of the AQIM’s activities, including financing, planning and facilitating terror attacks. He was considered the senior-most decision-maker of AQIM.
“Droukdal was the engineer behind expanding AQIM’s ideology throughout the Sahel and Maghreb, and more recently into western Africa, where al-Qa’ida aligned elements have conducted attacks and kidnappings from Nigeria to Cote d’Ivoire,” AFRICOM director of intelligence, Rear Adm. Heidi Berg said. “He was responsible for numerous attacks and the deaths of hundreds of innocent civilians.”
AFRICOM provided Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance support for the French-led military operation. AFRICOM has also been heavily involved in operations against other Al Qaeda affiliated groups, such as the Al Shabaab terror group, which is mostly active in Somalia and other east African countries like Kenya and Uganda.
“Droukdal’s leadership and capabilities enabled al-Qa’ida’s Mali-based organizations to significantly increase instability in the Sahel,” Berg said.
Several of Droukdal’s collaborators were also killed in the operation, though specifics about the operation remain limited.
“This wasn’t just a win for France and the US or even the nations of the Sahel. It was a win for every nation that opposes terrorism and violence,” Maj. Gen. Dagvin Anderson, Special Operations Command Africa commander said of the operation. “The cooperation that led to the elimination of this high-level al-Qa’ida leader shows the value of our partnerships and the return on investment these mutually beneficial relationships bring to U.S. and international security.”
According to the U.S. Office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI), AQIM suffered setbacks to its control of territory in Mali in 2013, following a French-led military intervention in the country. The group reportedly regrouped in areas of northern Mali in 2015. At its height, the group had about 30,000 members, but U.S. intelligence officials now believe their numbers to be fewer than 1,000.