French armed forces have killed the leader of Daesh in the Greater Sahara in what President Emmanuel Macron has hailed as "another major success" in the fight against terror groups in the Sahel region.
Adnan Abu Walid Al-Sahrawi was a major Daesh figure in West Africa. After joining the group in 2015 and becoming its leader for the region the following year, he was responsible for a number of attacks against local government, French and US troops. Apart from an attack on US forces in Niger in 2017, Sahrawi also ordered the killing of six French charity workers and their Nigerian driver in August last year.
Macron made a statement on Wednesday night announcing the killing of Sahrawi. "The nation's thoughts are with all its heroes who have died in the Sahel for France… with the grieving families, with all its wounded," added the French president. "Their sacrifice has not been in vain. With our African, European and American partners, we will continue our efforts in this battle."
Sahrawi's death comes amid Macron's recent announcement of France's plans to withdraw a significant number of its troops from Mali, where over 4,000 remain after almost a decade of fighting against alleged Al-Qaeda and Daesh elements in the region. In June, France also killed a senior Al-Qaeda leader in the Sahel.
The French operation against extremist groups in sub-Saharan Africa – which is supported by western states and the United Arab Emirates – has been offset by a recent revelation that French intelligence was aware of the French Lafarge Company's support and funding for Daesh. Many are sceptical of France's motives in countries like Mali where it has a military presence.
Despite the reported efforts of the French military and other foreign and local forces in Africa, extremist militant groups have been making rapid gains, especially in Nigeria, the Sahel and Mozambique. It has caused many analysts concern that Daesh could use its front in West Africa to compensate for its losses in Iraq and the Levant in recent years.