France on Friday announced its forces have killed Bah Ag Moussa, a senior al-Qaeda operative, in Mali Tuesday evening.
“The French armed forces neutralized a senior al-Qaeda cadre on November 10 in Mali," said Minister of the Armed Forces Frances Parly in a statement over Twitter Friday. “I congratulate our soldiers for this success which deprives Iyad Ag Ghali of one of its main assistants. Their commitment, their courage and their selflessness make us strong and proud."
Moussa, also known as Bamoussa Diarra, is a former Malian Army officer who defected to join rebel forces in 2012, founding Iyad Ag Ghali, the terrorist group along with Ansar Dine. The group then became RVIM -- also known as GSIM or JNIM -- through a merger with al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQMI) and other extremist groups.
Parly detailed that Bah Ag Moussa was responsible for several attacks against the Malian and international forces over the past few years in the region.
The air strike, part of Operation Barkhane, an ongoing offensive by French armed forces in northern Africa's Sahel region, took place in northeastern Mali at the end of a larger operation conducted along with African and European allies fighting groups linked to al-Qaeda in a part of the region known as the "three borders area." There are reports that several leading figures were also neutralized.
Parly hailed the move as "a major success in the fight against terrorism". According to Franceinfo, the operation was carried out with the assistance of "significant intelligence resources” as well as helicopters and ground troops."
AQMI emir Abdelmalek Droukdel was also killed in June during an operation by French forces in northern Mali.
Malian government officials say they wish to enter into peace talks with Iyad Ag Ghali, according to a report by Le Monde. France maintains 5,000 soldiers on the ground in the Sahel. Although presently contemplating a troop withdrawal, France is wary of negotiations at this time.