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a “kick in the anthill”

Published on : 06/07/2020 – 07:41

The death Wednesday of the leader of Aqmi, Abdelmalek Droukdal, in the north of Mali, during a French operation, is “a beautiful result” but “does not solve the problem of the Sahel”, explain specialists of the region.

He was one of the main leaders of the Sahelo-Saharan Islamist nebula for twenty years, the death of the head of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (Aqmi), Algerian Abdelmalek Droukdal, is a jihadist “kick in the anthill”, the impact of which has yet to be determined.

Everything was very fast on Wednesday evening, June 3, in the area of ​​Ourdjane wadi, 2 km south of the village of Talhandak, in the immense desert expanse of the far north of Mali.

The circumstances of the operation

Located 80 km east of Tessalit as the crow flies and 20 km from the Algerian border, the wadi hosted “a meeting” between Aqmi chiefs, according to a local source interviewed by AFP. This river bed, far from the habitations, is a place where the animals of the breeders of the area drink, according to the same source.

In the early evening, “between 6 pm and 9 pm” (local time and GMT), told AFP a resident, “there was a strike and fighting” in this wadi. He says: a strike against a vehicle, “followed by the intervention of half a dozen helicopters, and men on the ground”.

Among the jihadists killed: Abdelmalek Droukdal (also spelled Droukdel), the leader of Aqmi, but also, according to the French general staff, Toufik Chaib, “a senior Aqmi officer in charge of the coordination and propaganda of this terrorist organization “.

Another “jihadist preferred to surrender without fighting” and was placed in detention, added Colonel Frédéric Barbry, spokesman for the French General Staff. The resident evokes the same toll: two dead and a prisoner.

The Talhandak area, a crossroads for road transporters who sometimes wait there for several weeks for the opening of the border with Algeria, “is a hotbed of migrant smuggling” in the Sahara, according to a member of the expert group of the UN in Mali joined by AFP.

What consequences in the anti-jihadist struggle in the Sahel?

This operation, carried out with the help of the intelligence of the United States, according to the American army, is a “kick in the anthill” jihadist, explains to AFP Denis Tull, specialist West Africa in the Irsem (Strategic Research Institute of the Military School) in Paris.

But, he adds “we will not solve the problems only by cutting heads. It is very good to neutralize certain leaders, it will weaken the structures to a certain extent but we have seen on other grounds that the beheading the chiefs was never enough. ”

Because Abdelmalek Droukdal is far from being the only jihadist leader in the Sahel: the region, bereaved since 2012 by violence that continues to worsen, is the area of ​​operations of several jihadist groups.

First there is the Support Group for Islam and Muslims (GSIM, or JNIM according to its initials in Arabic), linked to Al-Qaeda, of which Aqmi is a member. This alliance formed in 2017 also brings together other groups, among which the main are Ansar Dine, led in northern Mali by Iyad Ag Ghaly, and the katiba Macina, founded in the center of the country by Amadou Koufa.

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The analysis of our correspondent Wassim Nasr

“It doesn’t solve the Sahel problem”

In the so-called “three borders” zone between Niger, Burkina Faso and Mali, another group is very present: the Islamic State in the Grand Sahara (EIGS, affiliated to IS), led by Adnan Abou Walid Sahraoui.

For many months, violence has been concentrated in this region of the three borders, in the Center of Mali and in East Burkina Faso. “On the ground, today, the groups that act the most (those of Koufa and Sahraoui, Editor’s note) are not under the thumb of Droukdel,” notes Ibrahim Maïga, of the Institute for Security Studies (ISS ) in Bamako.

“The insurrectionary position will be maintained by these groups, even if the death of Droukdel shows them that no one is safe, that Barkhane can strike in their ranks,” he added.

“It is a beautiful result” but “it does not solve the problem of the Sahel”, summarizes an expert in anti-terrorism in France interviewed by AFP, on condition of anonymity.

Because these problems are legion: recurrent attacks often with an intercommunity dimension – at least 26 villagers were killed on Friday in central Mali -, political problems – suspicions of embezzlement in Niger, growing contestation of power in Mali -, and accusations of abuses against the national armies which are multiplying. “Perhaps all this could overshadow this death,” observes Ibrahim Maïga.

With AFP

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