French army says leading member of al-Qaeda affiliate killed in Mali

Nasser Al Tergui killed in airstrike carried out by Barkhane military forces on Oct. 15.

French army says leading member of al-Qaeda affiliate killed in Mali

The French military Thursday announced the killing of Nasser Al Tergui, a leading member of the Katiba Serma terrorist group affiliated with al-Qaeda, last week in Mali.

In a statement, the French military said he was killed in an airstrike carried out by Barkhane military forces on Oct. 15.

There was no immediate reaction from the government in Mali on the announcement.

Katiba Serma, an armed group affiliated with al-Qaeda, is operating along Mali's troubled border with Burkina Faso.

Al Tergui was number two in the Gourma-Serma brigade of the Support Group for Islam and Muslims (Jamaat Nasr al-Islam wal Muslimin), the statement said.

Al Tergui is believed to have joined al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb in 2012.

He had “major operational responsibilities in the group, notably planting improvised explosive devices,” the statement said, adding: “His death will reduce the capacity to cause harm of an armed terrorist group known for carrying out attacks against local forces and the local population.”

A drone reportedly spotted a vehicle believed to be carrying Al Tergui and five other members of the brigade about 100 kilometers (60 miles) northwest of Gossi town on Oct. 15.

An operation was launched to intercept the vehicle, but it refused to stop.

“Two airstrikes were unleashed, destroying the vehicle and neutralizing the five occupants,” the army said.

Mali has been battling an insurgency linked to the al-Qaeda and Daesh/ISIS terror groups since 2012 when unrest erupted in the north of the West African country.

Mali’s transition government said Tuesday it asked the High Islamic Council to open peace talks with leaders of the al-Qaeda-linked groups to end a decade of conflict, a move not backed by the country’s chief military ally, France.

France has maintained about 5,100 soldiers in West Africa as part of its Operation Barkhane anti-terrorism force, with its headquarters in Chad’s capital, N’Djamena. The force is being drawn down.

The French military in September killed Adnan Abu Walid al-Sahrawi, the leader of Daesh/ISIS in the Greater Sahara, the militant group responsible for some of the worst violence in West Africa’s Sahel region.

The death of al-Sahrawi, who France listed as enemy number one, and was wanted for deadly attacks on US soldiers and foreign aid workers, followed the killing in June 2020 of al-Qaeda leader Abdelmalek Droukdel. Sahrawi had pledged allegiance to Daesh/ISIS in Iraq and Syria in 2015.