French troops killed top al Qaeda leader in Mali, Pentagon confirms

French troops killed top al Qaeda leader in Mali, Pentagon confirms
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French troops last week killed a top al Qaeda leader in northern Mali, the Pentagon confirmed on Monday. 

French officials announced on Friday that two days earlier forces killed Abdelmalek Droukdal, the head of the extremist group's affiliates in North Africa and the Sahel.

Droukdal was involved in all aspects of al Qaeda in the region, including financing, planning and carrying out terrorist attacks, according to a U.S. Africa Command statement. 

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“Droukdal was the engineer behind expanding [the group's] ideology throughout the Sahel and Maghreb, and more recently into western Africa, where al-Qa’ida aligned elements have conducted attacks and kidnappings from Nigeria to Cote d’Ivoire,” Rear Adm. Heidi Berg, Africom's director of intelligence, said in the statement. 

“He was responsible for numerous attacks and the deaths of hundreds of innocent civilians.”

French Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly wrote on Twitter Friday that Droukdal died with “several of his close collaborators.”

The U.S. military provided intelligence for the mission.

“The cooperation that led to the elimination of this high-level al-Qa’ida leader shows the value of our partnerships and the return on investment these mutually beneficial relationships bring to U.S. and international security," Maj. Gen. Dagvin Anderson, Special Operations Command Africa commander, said in the statement.

U.S. forces are in West Africa to train and assist security forces in an effort to quell extremist Islamic groups including Boko Haram and those that pledge loyalty to the Islamic State and al Qaeda.

Reports emerged late last year that Defense Secretary Mark EsperMark EsperPentagon sends 3 cargo planes to Lebanon filled with aid as questions on blast remain Overnight Defense: Esper says 'most believe' Beirut explosion was accident, contradicting Trump | Trump later says 'nobody knows yet' what happened in Lebanon | 61-year-old reservist ID'd as fourth military COVID-19 death Trump tempers his description of Beirut explosion as an attack: 'Nobody knows yet' MORE was mulling greatly reducing or completely withdrawing U.S. troops from West Africa — a plan that would focus on several hundred American troops deployed in Niger, Chad and Mali — though such a move has been met with pushback on Capitol Hill.