French armed forces confirms to have killed a top Al-Qaeda commander responsible for series of kidnapping of Westerners in the Sahel region.
The terror operative identified as Djamel Okacha is an Algerian and a commander in Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).
The top jihadist leader was killed on Thursday after French commandos, helicopters and a drone hit a column of vehicles he was travelling in north of Timbuktu.
According to French officials, Okacha was a veteran jihadist also known as Yahya Abou El Hamame. He was “the mastermind and financer of several attacks was responsible of kidnapping a number of Westerners in North and West Africa.
Defense Minister Florence Parly described his killing as a “spectacular action”, saying it followed a manhunt which lasted several years.
His death “deals a very hard blow to terrorist groups in the Sahel,” Parly said.
Around 4,500 French troops have been deployed in Mali since 2014 to retake the north of the country after it fell to jihadist fighters.