French President Emmanuel Macron, on Wednesday, Sept. 15, announced that it had neutralized Adnan Abu al-Walid al-Sahrawi, leader of Islamic State in Greater Sahara.
“It’s another major success in our fight against terrorist groups in the Sahel,” the president Tweeted, given that the French military had been able to terminate the extremist leader but did not disclose where or how al-Sahrawi was killed.
“The nation is thinking tonight of all its heroes who died for France in the Sahel in the Serval and Barkhane operations, of the bereaved families, of all of its wounded,” Macron wrote in a tweet after announcing al-Sahrawi’s death. “Their sacrifice is not in vain.”
The head of the extremist group was believed to have grown up in refugee camps in Algeria’s south, where he dedicated himself to Western Sahara’s nationalist struggle, according to The Guardian.
He eventually joined the Polisario Front, the Associated Press reported. Al-Sahrawi then moved to northern Mali after spending time in Algeria, where he became a crucial player in the MUJAO group, which in 2012 held the large northern town of Gao.
With a few dozen supporters, al-Sahrawi went his own way, subsequently professing allegiance to ISIS in May 2015, The Guardian added.
The jihadist Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the Paris attacks in 2015, which killed 130 citizens.
The event involved six coordinated attacks, including simultaneous shootings and suicide bombings, per AFP.
Two years later, the group led by al-Sahrawi had killed four U.S. soldiers and four Nigerian soldiers in an ambush attack in Niger.
His organization has also kidnapped foreigners in the Sahel. For example, it is suspected that American Jeffrey Woodke, who was kidnapped from his house in Niger in 2016, is still being held captive by the group.
The demise of the head of the Islamic State came a day after a principal defendant in the 2015 Paris attack during his trial claimed he was a member of the group and that the attack was an act of vengeance.
As AP revealed, the defendant said the attack was “nothing personal.”
Since the 2013 operation in northern Mali, the French military has been fighting Islamic militants in the Sahel area, where France was once a colonial power, as reported by AP.
The French government recently had voiced that it would cut off military forces in the region, with a plan to have 2,000 troops withdraw as early as next year.