On Monday, the French army announced that its anti-jihadist force in Mali had killed Yahya Djawadi, a “prominent leader” in al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, who is responsible for financial and logistical affairs.
The army said in a statement that Djawadi, an Algerian also known as Abu Ammar al-Jazaery, was killed on the night of February 25-26, 160 km north of Timbuktu in central Mali.
She added that his death “again weakens the rule of al-Qaeda” in Mali, describing it as a “key link in northern Mali and especially in the Timbuktu region” of the GSIM group allied with al-Qaeda.
The military said Djawadi, the former “emir” of Libyan operations for al-Qaeda, fled to Mali in 2019 and settled in the Timbuktu region, helping to organize the group and coordinate supplies, financing and logistics.
It added that he was shot dead by ground forces backed by a Tiger attack helicopter and two drones.
France is preparing to redeploy some 2,400 soldiers away from Mali to other countries in the Sahel that are facing cross-border jihadist insurgencies, after a row with the military junta in Bamako.
While the withdrawal is set to extend over a period of six months, the military said, “Operations are continuing against armed terrorist groups, especially against senior leaders of al-Qaeda, the Public Security Agency, and the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara.”
French forces first intervened in Mali in 2013, but disagreements between Paris and Bamako since the 2020 coup have prompted the military government to turn to other allies such as Russia’s Wagner paramilitary group.
Even with international allies on the ground, the Malian state has struggled to reassert control over territory from the jihadist insurgency that began in the north of the country in 2012 and has since spread to neighboring Niger and Burkina Faso.
The fighting has claimed thousands of lives and forced hundreds of thousands to flee their homes.