French forces take down al-Qaeda commander in Mali

by Onize Ohikere
Posted 3/03/16, 02:36 pm

French forces in Mali killed a Spanish al-Qaeda commander earlier this week, striking a blow to the extremists terrorizing North Africa. But experts warn military victories alone will not be enough to defeat the ideologically driven group.

“The death of Abu al-Nur al-Andalusi happened during an attack by French forces on a meeting of al-Qaeda members in northern Mali,” Spanish intelligence firm AICS told Reuters.

The French forces killed at least two other fighters in the attack. Al-Andalusi, a 35-year-old native of an autonomous Spanish enclave in Morocco, was responsible for leading a brigade of about 25 fighters in the desert area north of Timbuktu, according to AICS. He took part in attacks against the UN peacekeeping mission in Mali and also appeared in an al-Qaeda recruitment video released in September and rebroadcast by the SITE global intelligence agency.

Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) began in Algeria in 2007 and continues to plague countries across the continent. The terror group took responsibility for a January hotel attack in Burkina Faso. Earlier this month, the extremist fighters attacked a UN police base in Timbuktu. Mali’s UN peacekeeping mission reported six peacekeepers were injured on Tuesday after their vehicle struck a land mine in northern Mali.

“AQIM is an entirely negative influence on the region,” said Paul Sullivan, adjunct professor of security studies at Georgetown University. “It is a malignancy that has been a threat for many years.”

French forces began fighting AQIM in 2013 when they intervened to drive out forces that had seized control of towns in northern Mali. France currently has about 3,500 troops in the Sahel region, which includes Mali and other African countries below the Sahara Desert.  But the extremist group still remains a problem in the region. In his address today in Burkina Faso, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on countries in the Sahel to address security issues by focusing on what causes instability—poverty, unemployment, discrimination, and impunity.

Sullivan agreed. 

“There are limits to what the military force can do,” he said. “The underlying social, economic, educational, and other causes have to be dealt with properly, otherwise the military option has limited possibilities.”

Onize Ohikere

Onize is WORLD's Africa reporter. She is a World Journalism Institute graduate and earned a journalism degree from Minnesota State University-Moorhead. Onize resides in Abuja, Nigeria. Follow her on Twitter @onize_ohiks.

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