ISIS chief in the Sahara was killed by French forces, Macron announces

(CNN) — French forces have killed Adnan Abou Walid al-Sahraoui, leader of the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISIS-GS), French President Emmanuel Macron announced on Twitter early Thursday.

French Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly tweeted on Thursday that military and intelligence agents had contributed to a “long-term hunt” for the ISIS-GS leader, which she described as a “decisive blow” for the group.

“This is another great success in our fight against terrorist groups in the Sahel,” President Macron tweeted.

ISIS-GS was established in 2015 after al-Sahraoui split from al-Qaeda-associated al-Murabitun, another Africa-based splinter group.

In 2017, al-Sahraoui claimed responsibility for the ambush by US forces in Niger that killed four US soldiers.

The United States Department of State designated ISIS-GS as Foreign Terrorist Organization in 2018 and announced in 2019 a $5 million reward for information leading to al-Sahraoui’s capture.

He was responsible for “cowardly and particularly deadly” attacks on civilians and security forces in Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso, according to a statement from a French presidential spokesman.

In August 2020, al-Sahraoui “personally ordered” the killing of six French aid workers and their driver and guide, the statement added.

President Macron announced in June 2021 the end of the current French deployment in the Sahel region, Operation Barkhane, with a gradual handover to a multilateral mission. This would imply a “profound transformation” of the French military presence in the Sahel, Macron said on June 10.

According to the French Ministry of Defense, as of this September, France has 5,100 soldiers deployed in five countries in the Sahel region: Chad, Mali, Niger, Mauritania and Burkina Faso.

The incoming international effort will be spearheaded by the Takuba Task Force, a French-led European military task force that advises, assists and accompanies the Malian Armed Forces in the Sahel, according to the French president. The French army will constitute the “backbone” of that force, completed by special forces from European countries and partners in the region.

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