Senior commander of Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimin (JNIM) militant group, Bah ag Moussa, aka Bamoussa Diarra, had been killed in a French military operation in the Menaka area on Tuesday, November 10, the officials said.
The former Malian army colonel was second in command of the Al Qaeda-linked group, working closely with its leader Iyad Ag Ghali.
French Defense Minister Florence Parly hailed the operation involving helicopters and ground troops that “neutralized” Ba Ag Moussa, described as the military commander of the militant group.
Bah Ag Moussa is “believed responsible for several attacks against Malian and international forces,” she said in a statement. “He is considered one of the top military jihadists in Mali, in charge in particular of the training of new recruits.”
The killing of Bah ag Moussa comes amid an increase in operations by French forces in Mali in recent weeks targeting Islamist militant groups in the country.
Dozens of suspected militants have been killed in targeted operations in the country since the assault in which Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) leader Abdelmalek Droukdel was killed by French forces in the Kidal region on June 3.
It is however unclear whether the operations have had a significant impact on terrorist capabilities in the region.
Further security operations are likely in the Menaka region, and other areas of northern and central Mali, in the medium term. There is a realistic possibility of retaliatory attacks targeting French forces or interests in the region in the medium term.
Mali is struggling to contain an Islamist insurgency that erupted in 2012 and which has claimed since then thousands of military and civilian lives. Despite the presence of thousands of French and UN troops, the conflict has engulfed the center of the country and spread to neighboring Burkina Faso and Niger.
Despite a long deployment that has claimed the lives of over 50 French troops, analysts say that the force cannot yet claim any lasting victory over jihadists in the region.