MS Risk Blog

Top Jihadist Killed in Raid in Mali

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One of Mali’s top jihadist leaders has been killed in a raid carried out in a joint operation by French and Malian forces against a base, located in the forest of Wagadou in the centre of the country, that sheltered the command of Ansar Dine of Macina. On Saturday 24 November, French and Malian authorities both confirmed the death of Amadou Koufa, real name Amadou Diallo, one of the most prominent jihadist leaders in the country who was killed in the raid on the night of 22 November. According to General Abdoulaye Cissé, “after the military operation the terrorist Koufa was seriously injured and taken away by his supporters before he died.” The confirmation of his death comes after France suggested on Friday 23 November that Koufa may have been killed in the operation in the central region of Mopti that “put out of actin” about thirty Islamist militants. The French army also disclosed at the time that the operation targeted a base controlled by Koufa, which was later confirmed by Malian authorities.

Detailing the preparation of the operation, General Cissé disclosed that “for months, the military intelligence services of Mali have collected a mass of accurate information that they shared with partners, including France.” On Thursday night, French forces deployed a number of air assets, including Mirage 2000 aircraft, a number of helicopters, supported by Reaper drones, and a C135 tanker. General Francois Lecointre, Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces, has emphasized that “the careful preparation and perfect coordination of all the French forces deployed in the Sahel have made this operation a success…”.

This operation represents a major setback for jihadists operating in the region. Sources have indicated that Koufa was a major link between the central and northern regions of Mali and it will likely be difficult to find a natural successor. He was also seen as the spokesperson for JNIM in central Mali. His death though is unlikely to stop any attacks, and may in fact lead to further incidents, with Malian and French forces specifically being targeted. French interests in the region may also be targeted as a result of this operation.

Koufa, a radical preacher, was one of the top deputies to Iyad Ag Ghali, the leader of Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimin (JNIM), which has repeatedly attacked soldiers and civilians in Mali and in the northern region of neighbouring Burkina Faso. These attacks have effectively shifted Mali’s six-year-old Islamist insurgency from the remote desert north closer to the populous southern region of the country, prompting France to deploy thousands of troops across West Africa’s Sahel region. JNIM was created from a merger of local groups in March 2017. The group was later endorsed by al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). In September 2018, the United States Department of State designated JNIM as a “foreign terrorist organization.”

Video Image of Amadou Koufa

Since Koufa’s appearance in JNIM, intercommunal violence has significantly increased in the central region of the country, affecting the Fulani, who are traditional breeders, against the Bambara and the Dogon ethnic groups, which are mainly engaged in agriculture. The United Nations has indicated that the violence has killed more than 500 civilians since the beginning of the year. Koufa last appeared along with two other influential jihadist leaders from northern and central Mali in a video that was posted on 8 November, in which they called for “continued jihad.” The three included Iyad Ag Ghaly and Algerian Jamel Okacha, commonly known as Abu Al-Hammam. In the video, Koufa addressed Muslims of the world, and more particularly the Fulani communities of the West African countries of Mali, Ivory Coast, Senegal, Burkina Faso, Niger, Ghana, Nigeria and Cameroon and called on all of them to join the “jihad.”