French forces have reportedly killed a Spanish al-Qaeda commander, during an operation in northern Mali.
French forces killed a Spaniard working as an al-Qaeda commander in northern Mali during a military operation against the group this week, a Spanish intelligence firm and security sources said.
Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), a group that emerged from Algeria’s civil war, has stepped up a regional insurgency in West Africa, claiming two hotel attacks in Mali and Burkina Faso’s capitals since November that killed at least 50 people.
US Africa Command calls it the world’s “most enduring” extremist group and a US commander warned last month it could strengthen further.
“The death of (Abu al-Nur al-Andalusi) happened during an attack by French forces on a meeting of al-Qaeda members in northern Mali,” AICS, a Spain-based intelligence company said in a statement sent to Reuters on Wednesday, citing local sources.
The firm’s CEO Salvador Burguet described al-Nur as a 35-year-old from Melilla, an autonomous Spanish enclave in north Africa. For at least the past year he has been leading a Katiba, or brigade, made up of around 25 fighters in the desert area north of Timbuktu, Burguet said.
Two other security officials in Mali confirmed al-Nur’s death, adding two French operations were made in the Gao and Timbuktu regions earlier this week. It was not clear how many other militants were killed.