mali: France claims capture of high-ranking IS figure in Mali – Times of India


PARIS: French forces in Mali have captured a senior member of the Sahel branch of the Islamic State group, the French army said on Wednesday.
The arrest comes as France prepares to complete its withdrawal from Mali after fighting a jihadist insurgency in the country for nearly a decade with the French-led anti-insurgency force Barkhane.
“On the night of June 11-12, an operation by the Barkhane forces enabled the arrest of Oumeya Ould Albakaye, a leading figure in the Islamic State of the Greater Sahara (IS-GS),” a spokesman for the Islamic State said. chief of staff. AFP.
The operation, conducted near the border with Niger, took weeks of preparation involving air and ground army units, the defense ministry in Paris said.
Albakaye will be held for questioning by French troops for several days and then handed over to Malian authorities, the army added.
A security source who declined to be named told AFP that Albakaye was once seen as a potential successor to former IS-GS leader Adnan Abu Walid al-Sahrawi, who was killed by French forces in August 2021.
Albakaye, an explosives expert, was a regional head of the group and commanded the areas of Gourma in Mali and Oudalan in neighboring Burkina Faso.
He is responsible for a large number of abuses against civilians in those countries, according to the army.
France will complete its withdrawal from Mali in the coming months, when its main military base in Gao will be returned to Malian forces.
– ‘Repositioning’ – On Wednesday, the French Defense Ministry called the capture of Albakaye “a new success for the Barkhane force, which continues its fight against armed terrorist groups while repositioning itself outside Mali”.
Relations between Mali and France plummeted after the military seized power in Bamako in August 2020.
The junta has resisted setting an early date to restore civilian rule and strengthened ties with Moscow, attracting “military instructors” who denounce France and its allies as mercenaries hired by the pro-Kremlin Wagner government. group.
For most of the previous decade, France has been Mali’s closest ally in its fight against jihadists who have claimed thousands of lives and forced hundreds of thousands from their homes.
France began its anti-jihadist operations in the Sahel in 2013, helping Mali, the former colony, quell an insurgency in the north.
But the jihadists regrouped to attack the unstable center of the country and started a full-scale uprising that president-elect Ibrahim Boubacar Keita failed to break.
In August 2020, protests against Keita culminated in a coup by disgruntled colonels – a move followed by a second military takeover in May 2021.
Relations with France continued to deteriorate, propelled by the junta’s resistance to set an early date for the restoration of civilian rule and by Bamako’s accusation that France urged the region to take a hard line against the region.
In January of this year, the French ambassador to Bamako was expelled from the country and the following month, France announced the withdrawal of its troops from Mali, as well as that of the French-led Takuba force, made up of nearly 1,000 soldiers, mainly from EU countries.
An unknown is the impact of the unrest on the United Nations peacekeeping force in Mali (MINUSMA), which is one of the largest UN operations in the world with 14,000 troops and police.

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