France killed the leader of Islamic State in the Greater Sahara because the group attacked French aid workers, African civilians, and US troops, French officials said Thursday, calling him "enemy No. 1" in protracted anti-terrorism efforts in the Sahel. French President Emmanuel Macron announced the death of Adnan Abu Walid al-Sahrawi overnight. According to Macron's office, al-Sahrawi personally ordered the killing of six French aid workers and their Nigerien colleagues last year, and his group was behind a 2017 attack that killed US and Niger military personnel, the AP reports.
He was killed in a strike by France’s Barkhane military operation “a few weeks ago,” but authorities waited to be sure of his identity before making the announcement, French Defense Minister Florence Parly told RFI radio Thursday. She did not disclose details of the operation or where al-Sahrawi was killed, though the group is active along the border between Mali and Niger. "He was at the origin of massacres and terror,” French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said Thursday on France-Info radio. He urged African governments to fill the void and seize back ground taken by the Islamic State extremists.
Rumors of the militant leader’s death had circulated for weeks in Mali, though authorities in the region had not confirmed it. Al-Sahrawi had claimed responsibility for a 2017 attack in Niger that killed four US military personnel and four people with Niger’s military. His group also has abducted foreigners in the Sahel and is believed to still be holding American Jeffrey Woodke, who was abducted from his home in Niger in 2016. (Read more Islamic State stories.)