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French forces kill Al-Qaeda leader Abdelmalek Droukdel

French forces claimed to have killed the leader of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, Algerian Abdelmalek Droukdel, in northern Mali, France’s defence minister said.

Droukdel was killed on Thursday near the Algerian border, where the group has bases from which it has carried out attacks and abductions in the sub-Saharan Sahel zone, Defence Minister Florence Parly said Friday.

Many close associates” of Droukdel — who commanded several affiliate jihadist groups across the lawless region — were also “neutralised”, she added.

Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) emerged from a group started in the late 1990s by radical Algerian militants, who in 2007 pledged allegiance to Osama Bin Laden’s Al-Qaeda network.

The group has claimed responsibility for a string of attacks on troops and civilians across the Sahel, including a 2016 attack on an upmarket hotel and restaurant in Burkina Faso, which killed 30 people, mainly Westerners.

France has deployed more than 5,000 troops to combat militant groups in the region — a largely lawless expanse stretching over Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger, where drugs and arms flow through porous borders.

According to the UN, Droukdel was an explosives expert and manufactured devices that killed hundreds of civilians in attacks on public places.

He was sentenced to death in Algeria in 2013 for his involvement in the bombings of a government building and offices of the UN’s refugee committee in Algiers that killed 26 people and wounded 177.

The US said it had provided intelligence to help track down Droukdel.

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