Bamako – French anti-jihadist forces in the Sahel said on Friday they had killed a leading member of an extremist group specialised in the laying of improvised explosive devices.
Oumarou Mobo Modhi was “neutralised” in Mali near the border with Burkina Faso on Thursday, France’s Barkhane force said.
The joint operation with the Malian military was supported by US forces, it said.
The US military provides logistical and intelligence support to French forces in the Sahel.
Modhi was linked to Ansaroul Islam, a militant Islamist group founded in 2016 on the Burkina Faso side of the Mali-Burkina border by Ibrahim Malam Dicko, a Burkina Faso preacher.
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The group, initially based in northern Burkina Faso, has forged links with al-Qaeda in the Sahel and operates in central Mali.
It claimed responsibility for numerous attacks in northern Burkina Faso during its early years.
However, the number of operations claimed by Ansaroul Islam dropped drastically after the death of Dicko, who was replaced by his brother Jafar Dicko.
Experts on the Sahel conflict have claimed that the group’s members had left it to join other jihadist outfits in the region, although this information cannot be corroborated on the ground.
Modhi “was an important group leader within Ansarul Islam. Directly subordinate to Jafar Dicko, the group’s emir,” Barkahne said, adding that he “supervised in particular the laying of IEDs”.
IEDs are a weapon of choice for jihadists in the area.
This “respected group leader” could “on an ad hoc basis take command of a hundred men to carry out large-scale attacks”, Barkhane said.
Central Mali is one of the main hotbeds of the Sahel conflict.
Sixteen Malian soldiers were killed there on Wednesday in an ambush blamed on jihadists.
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