|JNIM confirms deaths of co-founder, senior leaders in French raids|
|[LongWarJournal] In its official claim of responsibility for Friday’s terrorist attacks in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, al Qaeda’s Group for Support of Islam and Muslims (JNIM) also confirmed the deaths of several of its senior leaders.|
According to the jihadist group, the assault on the French embassy in Ouagadougou was in response to the French raids on Feb. 14 between Boughessa, Mali, and Tinzaouatene, Algeria. In that operation, French forces conducted three simultaneous raids, accompanied with airstrikes, which killed or captured over 20 jihadist fighters. JNIM confirmed the death of six of its leaders, including its co-founder, Hasan al Ansari.
Ansari, along with Mokhtar Belmokhtar and Ahmed el Tilemsi, was also a co-founder of Al Murabitoon. He would later become the second-in-command of the al Qaeda-loyal group, before becoming a co-founder and senior leader within JNIM. In the photo above, Ansari can be seen sitting second from the right between Iyad Ag Ghaly and Abu Abdul Rahman al Sanhaji, another Murabitoon official.
JNIM also confirmed the death of two top Ansar Dine commanders, Malik Ag Wanesnet and Abdullah Ag Oufata. Wanesnet, also known as Abu al Tayyib, was a former colonel in the Malian army before defecting to the jihadist cause and becoming a top military commander for Ansar Dine. Oufata was the former mayor of Boughessa, Mali, before he joined the Tuareg jihadist group. Ansar Dine joined Murabitoon, al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb’s Sahara branch, and Ansar Dine’s Katibat Macina (also known as the Macina Liberation Front) to form JNIM last year.
|France Says It Has 'Neutralized' 200 Jihadists in Sahel|
"There have been many operations, nearly 200 have been neutralized in a year, around 50 since August" when launched a massive counter-terrorism operation across five nations in the semi-arid Sahel, Le Drian told French radio and television.
In separate comments to Jeune Afrique magazine in an interview to appear Monday, he said some important leaders were among those killed or captured, mostly in Mali and Niger.
In what was seen as a massive blow to Islamist fighters, the French army on Thursday said it had killed Ahmed el Tilemsi, the Malian leader of the notorious Algerian jihadist Mokhtar Belmokhtar's Al-Murabitoun group.
The French military in 2013 routed radical Islamist groups who had seized large swathes of northern Mali, and in August this year launched Operation Barkhane as part of a wider counter-terrorism operation.
A total of 3,000 troops are now taking part in the operation across Mali, Mauritania, Niger, and Chad, to track and combat Islamist with fighter aircraft, helicopters and drones.
They are currently building an advance base close to the Libyan border in the north of Niger.
Le Drian said that the south of Libya had become a hub for jihadists operating in the region.
"Southern Libya has become a place of recovery, a petrol station, a place of rest, re-organization and training for a number of terrorist groups," he said in the interview broadcast on Radio Internationale and TV5 Monde.
"The hunt for always leads to the Libyan border. The country is in chaos."
"The international community must take the necessary steps with the countries concerned," Le Drian said, not ruling out military action there.
But first there would have to be a political solution in Libya, he said, with the country torn apart by a war between two rival governments. "That will come about through the pacification of the whole of Libya."
|U.S.-Wanted Jihadist Killed in Mali Operation|
|[AnNahar] The French army said Thursday it had killed the commander of a major West African jihadist group's branch in Mali in an operation in the north of the country.|
Ahmed el Tilemsi was the emir of the Al-Murabitoun group in Mali and was earlier this year declared a "specially designated global terrorist" by the U.S. State Department, who offered a $5 million reward (four million euros) for information leading to his capture.
"Last night... French forces conducted an operation in the Gao region (of northern Mali) in coordination with Malian authorities," army Gilles Jaron said, adding that Tilemsi had been killed.
"We've really hit Al-Murabitoun hard," said Jaron.
Tilemsi has a long history with jihadist groups operating in the , having been a member of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) before becoming one of the founding members of the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO), a splinter group aimed at spreading jihad throughout the region.
MUJAO was one of a number of Islamist groups that occupied northern Mali last year, imposing a brutal interpretation of Islamic sharia law characterised by amputations, beatings and executions, before being ousted by the French-led military intervention.
In August 2013, it merged with a group run by notorious Algerian jihadist Mokhtar Belmokhtar to form Al-Murabitoun, which loosely translates as "the guardians" and claimed to seek on for its actions in Mali.
The one-eyed Islamist Belmokhtar split from AQIM in 2013 to form his own group and ed a deadly raid against Algeria's In Amenas gas plant in which 38 hostages were killed in a four-day siege.
Tilemsi "was a very valuable target. We had been tracking him for several days," a government source told Agence Presse.
The source said Tilemsi was one of the s of the kidnapping of Gilberto Rodrigues Leal, who MUJAO claimed to have killed last April.
According to the U.S. State Department, Tilemsi also played a role in the kidnapping of two in Niamey in January 2011 while part of AQIM. The hostages were later found dead after a failed rescue attempt by the French military.
Tilemsi also took part in the October 2011 kidnapping of three aid workers in Algeria, which left two by gunfire, the State Department said.