A senior Malian member of the Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimin (JNIM) armed group has been killed in a raid led by French forces, according to the Malian army.
“I confirm that Amadou Koufa was killed during the operation,” Malian army spokesperson Colonel Diarran Kone told Reuters news agency on Saturday. He declined to elaborate.
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France‘s army had said on Friday that Koufa may have been killed in the operation in the central Mopti region that “put out of action” about 30 of his group’s fighters.
General Abdoulaye Cisse told AFP news agency on Saturday that Koufa was killed in the Wagadou forest.
“He died of his injuries,” he said.
“After the military operation the terrorist Koufa was seriously injured and taken away by his supporters before he died,” another military official told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity.
JNIM has not commented on the reports of Koufa’s death yet.
Koufa, a preacher, was one of the top deputies to Iyad Ag Ghali, the leader of Mali‘s most prominent armed group JNIM.
Created from a merger of local groups in March 2017, JNIM was later endorsed by Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).
In September, the United States Department of State had designated the group as a “foreign terrorist organisation”.
Armed groups affiliated with al-Qaeda took control of the vast desert in northern Mali in 2012, but were largely driven out of the area in a French-led military operation in 2013.
Mali’s government signed a peace deal with some coalitions of rebels in 2015, but armed groups are still active and vast tracts of the country remain out of government control.
The group has carried out numerous attacks on soldiers and civilians in Mali and neighbouring Burkina Faso.
In a response to those attacks, France and the US deployed thousands of troops across West Africa’s semi-arid region.