The leader of the jihadist group Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS) and “polisario” mercenary, Adnan Abu Walid al-Sahrawi, was killed by French forces, French President Emmanuel Macron announced on Twitter on Wednesday night. “This is another major success in the fight we are waging against terrorist groups in the Sahel,” added the French Head of State. This summer, in June and July, Paris had already announced the death or capture of several high-ranking ISGS executives by the French force Barkhane and its partners, as part of its strategy to target the leaders and executives of jihadist organizations. The leader of the ISGS “died as a result of a strike by the Barkhane force,” French Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly tweeted for her part, hailing “a decisive blow against this terrorist group.” “Our fight continues,” she said. The ISGS, created in 2015 by Adnan Abu Walid al-Sahrawi, a member of the “polisario front” and the jihadist movement Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), had been designated as a “priority enemy” in the Sahel, during the summit in Pau (southwestern France) in January 2020. He is considered to be behind most of the attacks in the “tri-border” region, a vast area straddling Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso. This area is a recurring target of attacks by two armed jihadist groups: the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS) and the Al Qaeda affiliated Group for the Support of Islam and Muslims (GSIM). ISGS has carried out particularly deadly attacks, targeting civilians and military personnel, in Mali, Niger, and Burkina Faso. It had targeted U.S. soldiers in a deadly attack in October 2017, in which four U.S. Special Forces soldiers and four Nigeriens were killed in an ambush in Tongo Tongo, near Mali in southwestern Niger. By the end of 2019, ISGS had carried out a series of large-scale attacks on military bases in Mali and Niger. On August 9, 2020, in Niger, the leader of ISGS personally ordered the assassination of six French aid workers and their Nigerien guide and driver. This attack against young people involved in humanitarian work caused a stir in France and in Niger, which was then classified as a red zone, i.e. “formally inadvisable”, with the exception of the capital Niamey, by the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs. After more than eight years of significant engagement, Emmanuel Macron announced in June a reduction of the French military presence in the Sahel and the end of the anti-jihadist operation Barkhane in favor of a tightened force, refocused on counter-terrorism operations and combat support for local armies, around an international alliance involving Europeans. “The Nation thinks tonight of all its heroes who died for France in the Sahel in the Serval and Barkhane operations, of the bereaved families, of all its wounded. Their sacrifice is not in vain. With our African, European and American partners, we will continue this fight,” added Emmanuel Macron in another tweet.
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