French President Emmanuel Macron announced via Twitter on Wednesday that French military forces killed the head of the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara, Abu al-Walid al-Sahrawi.
Why it matters: “It is a decisive blow against this terrorist group,” French Defense Minister Florence Parly tweeted, congratulating the military and intelligence agents who contributed to the mission.
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The big picture: Al-Sahrawi has been the “historic leader” of the Islamic State in the Sahel, which has taken credit for numerous of attacks throughout the region, Reuters reports.
- No further details were given regarding when or where al-Sahrawi was killed.
- Al-Sahrawi also spent time as the spokesman of the Mali-based group known as MUJAO, an organization that was loyal to the regional al-Qaeda affiliate, the Associated Press noted.
The context: France has been fighting Islamic extremists in the Sahel in West Africa—a region it once ruled under colonialism—since 2013, when it carried out an intervention in Mali.
- In July, Macron announced that France would be reducing its military presence in the region by half, with the goal of completing this restructuring in 2022.
What they’re saying: “This is another major success in our fight against terrorist groups in the Sahel,” Macron wrote.
- “Tonight, the Nation is thinking of all its heroes who died for France in the Sahel,” as well as the wounded and their families, Macron added in another tweet.
- “Their sacrifice is not in vain. With our African, European and American partners, we will continue this fight,” he added.