Head of Islamic State in Greater Sahara neutralised by French troops: French President Macron

The IS leader Adnan Abu Walid Al-Sahrawi had claimed responsibility for the 2017 attack in Niger, which killed four US Special Forces and four Nigerian military personnel. His group had also abducted foreigners in Sahel. 

Created On: Sep 16, 2021 18:19 IST
France's Barkhane force operations
France's Barkhane force operations

Adnan Abu Walid al Sahrawi, the leader of Islamic State in the Greater Sahara has reportedly been killed by the French forces after the group attacked French aid workers and other civilians and troops in Niger. 

French President Emmanuel Macron tweeted on September 16 saying, "Adnan Abu Walid al Sahrawi, leader of the terrorist group Islamic State in the Greater Sahara was neutralized by French forces. This is another major success in our fight against terrorist groups in the Sahel."

Macron further said, "The nation is thinking this evening 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. Their sacrifice is not in vain. With our African, European and American partners, we will continue this fight."

Barkhane military operation 

The Islamic State leader was reportedly killed in a strike by France’s Barkhane military operation a few weeks ago. Rumors of his death had been circulating for weeks in Mali but there had been no confirmation. The French authorities had decided to wait to be sure of his identity before making the official announcement.

French Defense Minister Florence Parly said on September 16, 2021 that Adnan Abu Walid al-Sahrawi was the origin of massacres and terror. Parly further urged African governments to fill the void and seize background taken by the Islamic State extremists. France has not disclosed much about the operation in which al-Sahrawi was killed.

Who was Adnan Abou Walid Al-Sahrawi?

•Al-Sahrawi was born in the disputed territory of Western Sahara and later had joined the Polisario Front, a rebel national liberation movement by the Sahrawi people claiming the Western Sahara.

•He then became an important part of a militant group-  MUJAO, which initially controlled the major northern town of Gao in northern Mali in 2012.

•A French-led military operation ousted the Islamic extremists from power in Gao and other northern cities in the same year. They regrouped later and carried out more attacks. 

•The MUJAO group was initially loyal to regional al-Qaida affiliate. In 2015, Al-Sahrawi had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria. He formed ISIS in the Greater Sahara (ISGS), which is held responsible for most of the terror attacks that have taken place in Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso.

•The IS leader had claimed responsibility for the 2017 attack in Niger, which killed four US Special Forces and four Nigerian military personnel. His group had also abducted foreigners in Sahel. 

•The IS leader was also reportedly behind the killing of French aid workers in Niger on August 9, 2020. 

French military counter-attack 

The French military has over the years killed several high-ranking members of the Islamic State in Sahara. French President Emmanuel Macron had announced a major scale back in France's Barkhane force operations in Sahel in June 2020 after almost eight years of military presence in the region to refocus on counter-terrorism operations.

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