French Minister of the Armed Forces Florence Barley on Friday announced that France’s anti-terrorism forces in Mali have killed Mali’s top jihadist leaders.
Leader of Jamaat Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimin’ (JNIM) Amadou Koufa died in Friday’s operation in the central Mopti region among about 30 Islamists.
The action comes as part of Operation Barkhane, France’s largest overseas military deployment with 3,000 French troops in the Sahel region.
The ministry said in a statement that the attack overnight Thursday into Friday combined air strikes, Reaper drones, helicopter assaults and ground engagement by French soldiers.
In September, the US Department of State designated JNIM a ‘Foreign Terrorist Organization’.
JNIM has described itself as Al-Qaeda’s official branch in Mali, and it has claimed responsibility for numerous attacks and kidnappings since it was formed in March 2017. JNIM carried out the June 2017 attack at a resort frequented by Westerners outside of Bamako, several deadly attacks on Malian troops, and the large-scale coordinated attacks in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso.
Amira Abdel-Halim, a consultant on African affairs at the Al-Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies, told The Reference in an interview that the group will not get affected by the death of Koufa, because it gets direct and full support from Al-Qaeda.
The group, however, might retaliate by plotting a number of terrorist operations and suicide bombings in the coming period against Mali and French troops.
movements, said the future of Nusrat al-Islam wa al-Muslimin’ is expecting one of three scenarios; the first one is that the group might carry out more terrorist attacks against French troops; the second one is that the group might not get affected by the murder of Koufa and replace him with a new leader; and the third scenario is that the group might carry out terrorist attacks within the areas it controls such as Lake Chad and Burkina Faso.
He added in an interview with The Reference that French forces have managed to carry out a number of successes in the region by initiating proactive strikes against terrorist groups.