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Africa: was Abdel Hakim al-Sahrawi, head of ISGS in Mali, killed?

ISGS leader Abdel Hakim al-Sahrawi was killed in a raid by French special forces from Barkhane in Mali. At the moment, however, there are no official confirmations

Was Abdel Hakim al-Sahrawi, head of Isis in Mali, killed by the French special forces of Operation Barkhane? According to well-informed sources, the number two of ISGS (Islamic State in the Great Sahara) allegedly lost his life during an operation in Tamalat, near the border with Niger. At the moment, however, there are no official confirmations. It is certain, however, that the man is one of the most wanted terrorists in West Africa. He is targeted by both Paris intelligence and the troops of the G5 Sahel anti-terrorism operation for recurrent attacks on military and civilian targets in Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger. The modus operandi is always the same. Dozens of militiamen raid their targets in a coordinated manner aboard motorcycles or pick-ups. Once these have been defeated and looted, the terrorists split into small groups and disappear into the desert.

Will confirmation of the commander’s death change the balance in the Sahel between Isis and the rival jihadist groups JNMI and AQIM?

Confirmation of Abdel Hakim al-Sahrawi’s death would have repercussions in the Sahel. ISGS has been at war against Jamaat Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimin (JNIM), an al Qaeda affiliate, in Mali and Burkina Faso. This was reported on May 7 by the Isis weekly, Al Naba, stressing that JNIM has mobilized large forces to attack Daesh. There is therefore a risk that the Qaedist group will take advantage of the opportunity to gain weight in the African region and regain ground against its rivals. Launching new offensives not only military, but also on the propaganda and recruitment side. The internal war has caused damage to both “image” and made it more difficult to convince local inhabitants to enlist. Moreover, the French special forces had eliminated Abdelmalek Droukdel, leader of Al-Qaeda of the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) in Mali in June. The death of both leaders therefore balances the game.

France would consolidate its leadership in the African region and its presence in Mali with Barkhane. Beware, however, of the possible revenge of ISGS even if it will take time

For France, the death of al-Sahrawi would be a new military success, which would consolidate its leadership and presence in the G5 Sahel countries. Especially in Mali, shaken by the recent military coup that is still underway. Paris, through the Minister of Defense, Florence Parly, has already made it known that “the Barkhane operation, requested by the local population and approved by the UN Security Council, continues”. The downside is that ISGS could seek revenge and thus initiate a campaign of attacks against French soldiers in the African country. This, however, will take time as the killed terrorist was one of the closest collaborators of Abu Walid al-Sahraoui, Daesh “emir” in the African region, as well as the operational commander of the jihadists. Consequently, he will have to be replaced before new offensives can be launched.

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