French forces take out leading jihadist in Mali

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French troops have killed a senior leader of al Qaeda’s North Africa wing during an operation in northeastern Mali, Defence Minister Florence Parly announced Friday hailing “a major success in the fight against terrorism”.

France’s Barkhane force “neutralised” Bah ag Moussa on Tuesday in an operation involving ground troops and helicopters, Defence Minister Parly said in a statement on Friday.

"A historic figure of the jihadist movement in the Sahel, Bah ag Moussa is considered responsible for several attacks against Malian and international forces," the statement said.

The former Malian army colonel, also known as Bamoussa Diarra, was on the US terrorism list.

He was a right-hand man of Iyad Ag Ghali, the leader of Mali's most prominent jihadi group, Jama'at Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimin (JNIM) or the Group to Support Islam and Muslims.

The group has repeatedly attacked soldiers and civilians in Mali and neighbouring Burkina Faso.

"This is a major success in the fight against terrorism," Parly said.

Series of operations

The killing of Bah ag Moussa follows a series of operations that have seen French forces kill dozens of Islamist fighters in recent weeks.

In early October, Barkhane forces, helped by Mali and the US, killed JNIM’s co-founder Ali Maychou, whom Parly has described as “the second most-wanted terrorist in the Sahel, including by the Americans".

JNIM group has claimed responsibility for the biggest attacks in the Sahel since its official launch in 2017. It is made up of several jihadist groups linked to al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).