France Assassinates ISIS and Al-Qaeda Leader in Military Ambush
French Special Forces commandos kill Adnan Abu Walid al-Sahrawi in Africa
France's military has assassinated a top former al-Qaeda leader who led an ISIS-affiliate terrorist group, French President Emmanuel Macron announced late Wednesday.
Macron said on Twitter that ISIS-GS leader Adnan Abu Walid al-Sahrawi was “neutralized by French forces” during an ambush in North Africa, according to a translation.
“This is another major success in our fight against terrorist groups in the Sahel.”
“The Nation is thinking this evening of all its heroes who died for France in the Sahel in the Serval and Barkhane operations, of the bereaved families, of all of its wounded.
"Their sacrifice is not in vain,” he added.
“With our African, European, and American partners, we will continue this fight.”
According to the Counter Extremism Project, an international non-profit working to combat the growing threat of terrorism and extremist ideology, al-Sahrawi was formerly the self-proclaimed leader for the al-Qaeda-linked terrorist group “The Sentinels” (“al-Mourabitoun”) in the Sahara.
In May 2015, he pledged allegiance to ISIS’s Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and split to form ISIS-GS.
Adnan Abou Walid al Sahraoui, who was in his late 40s, was "neutralized" by French Special Forces commandos four years after ordering a notorious ambush on American troops in Niger.
The 2017 attack led to the deaths of Army Sgt David Johnson, 25; Staff Sgt Bryan Black, 35; Staff Sgt Jeremiah Johnson, 39; and Staff Sgt Dustin Wright, 29.
Four Nigerien troops were also killed in the attack, and two American soldiers and eight Nigerien soldiers were severely wounded.
In the early hours of Thursday morning, Macron confirmed that Al-Sahraoui, who also used the nom de guerre Lehbib Ould, was finally dead.
There was no initial information as to what was used to kill Al-Sahraoui, or where or when the attack happened, but an Élysée Palace spokesman said the ISIS leader "was definitely dead."
In August, Mr. Macron said he would be pulling many of his troops out of the Sahel – which covers numerous African countries including Niger and Mali – following anti-terrorist operations codenamed Serval and Barkhane that were leading to mounting French losses.
But the president said special forces supported by airpower including armed drones would continue the hunt for lead terrorists.
In October 2019, the U.S. State Department offered "up to $5million" for any information leading to the capture or killing of Al-Sahraoui.
Morocco-born Al-Sahraoui claimed responsibility for the ambush in January 2018, as he built up his reputation within ISIS.
Adnan Abou Walid Al-Sahraoui also admitted to "personally ordering" the assassination of six French aid workers and their local guide and driver in August 2020.
All were murdered by a team of ISIS gunmen on motorbikes after they set off on a visit to the Kouré Giraffe Reserve, in Niger.
Al-Sahrawi started his adult life fighting a guerrilla war against Moroccan forces in Western Sahara, before joining various jihadi groups that merged with ISIS in 2015.
He was said to have been lightly wounded in a firefight with al-Qaeda loyalists a year later but continued to lead operations, mainly against government forces seen as being pro-west.
Al-Sahrawi, who was married, came close to being killed by the French in February 2018, close to Méneka, in Mali, but "escaped on foot in the middle of the night with some of his men," according to intelligence sources in Paris.
Mr. Macron's downscaling of anti-terrorist operations in Africa led to accusations that he was abandoning a crucial war, just as the USA did the same in Afghanistan.
But the killing of Al- Sahraoui will be viewed as a major success for French forces as they pursue a new strategy in a strategically vital part of the world.
Thankfully, France was able to finally get justice for the slain U.S. troops.