French govt: Forces killed al-Qaida-linked leader in Mali

United Nations peacekeeping solders stand by a cordon set up at the site where a gunman opened fire at a UN residence in Bamako on May 20, 2015. AFP PHOTO / HABIBOU KOUYATE

BAMAKO, Mali: French special forces killed a top chief of al-Qaida's affiliate in northern Mali who was suspected in high-profile killings and hostage-takings against French citizens, officials said Wednesday.

Amada Ag Hama, whose nom de guerre was "Abdelkrim the Tuareg" was killed in the operation early Monday, the French Defense Ministry said. Ibrahim Ag Inawalen, a leader with the Islamist group Ansar Dine who is also known by the name "Bana" was also killed, it said.

The statement provided no details about the operation.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said that Abdelkrim the Toureg was implicated in at least three operations against the French, including as lead suspect in the November 2013 killings of two journalists with Radio France International. The Malian was also implicated in the 2010 killing of French aid worker Michel Germaneau, and in the 2010 capture of four French people in the uranium mining town of Arlit, Niger.

"One should keep in mind that France has a long memory," Fabius said in Paris, addressing a group at the Institute of International and Strategic Relations.

Tuareg rebel groups seized control of northern Mali in early 2012, but shortly after al-Qaida-linked Islamic militants streamed in from their base in Algeria and won control of the area with the aim of imposing Sharia law in the country.

French forces led a military operation in January 2013 that pushed the extremists out of the cities and towns they had controlled and scattered them across a vast area of northeastern Mali. The top al-Qaida leader in Mali, Abou Zeid, was among the scores of Islamists who were killed.

France withdrew its intervention force but now has about 1,200 troops in northeastern Mali as part of a five-nation counterterrorism operation.

On Wednesday, an armed man tried to set fire to a United Nations vehicle in front of the residence of several military personnel for the mission in Bamako, in the south, said a statement from the U.N. mission in Mali.

"Before running away, the attacker shot the guard who was injured, as well as the cars in front of the house," causing property damage, it said. The guard is being treated in a hospital. Police are conducting an investigation into the incident, and de-mining units from the U.N. mission were called to neutralize two unexploded grenades found at the site, it said.





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