French soldiers killed the leader of al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), Abdelmalek Droukdel, and several of his associates in northern Mali on Thursday, June 3, revealed French defense minister Florence Parly.
France has more than 5,000 troops in the Sahel as part of Operation Barkhane, an anti-insurgent mission that cooperates with local armies under the umbrella of the G5 Sahel Joint Force. The United States Africa Command (AFRICOM) provided intelligence about Droukdel’s location.
AQIM is a Salafi-jihadist organization active in North Africa and the Sahel. It was founded in 1998 as the Salafist Group for Call and Combat (known by the French acronym GSCP), after it splintered from the Armed Islamic Group, a key participant in the Algerian Civil War. It was renamed al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) in January 2007 after it became an affiliate of Al-Qaida.
It is one of the wealthiest terrorist organizations in the world
AQIM, and previously as GSPC, is notorious for kidnapping Westerners for ransom in North Africa. The American Center for International Security and Cooperation says it is one of the wealthiest terrorist organizations in the world.
AQIM also leads Jama’a Nusrat ul-Islam wa al-Muslimin (JNIM), a militant alliance of various jihadist groups that has claimed responsibility for numerous attacks against Malian defense and security forces.
A Veteran of the Algerian Civil War
Droukdel, a.k.a. Abou Mossaab Abdelouadoud, was born in Blida, Algeria, in 1970. He was a postgraduate engineering student when the civil war broke out in 1992; he gave up his studies and became joined the Islamist insurgency against the Algerian government. In 2004, he succeeded Nabil Sharaioui as the leader, or emir, of GSCP/AQIM, and steered it to a closer alliance with al-Qaida.