French President Emmanuel Macron announced early Thursday that the country’s forces have “neutralized” Islamic State leader in Greater Sahara.

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Macron wrote on Twitter, “Adnan Abou Walid al Sahraoui, 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.”

Adnan Abou Walid Sahraoui was the most wanted jihadist in
the Sahel for former colonial power France. He was the leader of a branch of the
Islamic State that operates in the border region linking Mali, Burkina Faso and

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Sahraoui was a previous member of the Polisario Front, a
Western-Sahara organisation. He rose to prominence after Mali’s north fell to
rebels in 2012. He was a part of the jihadist Movement for Oneness and Jihad in
West Africa (MUJAO), which was one of the militias that gained control of the
north at that time.

In 2015, however, Sahraoui proclaimed his loyalty to the
Islamic State.

His militia has been quite active in recent years, and has
been responsible for a number of assaults in both 2019 and this year. It has
also begun to battle al Qaeda-linked organisations, a first for the Sahel, with
numerous instances of inter-jihadist violence occurring this year.

In a follow-up tweet, Macron wrote, “The nation is thinking tonight 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.”

According to reports from Associated Press, rumors of the militant leader’s death had circulated for weeks in Mali, though there had been no confirmation by authorities in the region. It was not immediately possible to independently verify the claim or to know how the remains had been identified.