French forces in Mail arrest ‘high-ranking’ Islamic State group jihadist
French forces in Mali have captured a man they describe as a “high-ranking fighter of the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara” (EIGS), the French military said Wednesday.
Dadi Ould Chouaib, also known as Abou Dardar, was arrested on June 11 in the flashpoint “tri-border” region between Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso, the site of frequent attacks by jihadist groups, the military said in a statement.
He was carrying “an automatic weapon, a night vision telescope, a combat vest, a telephone and a radio”, but surrendered without resistance.
He was located during a helicopter sweep as part of a joint mission between troops from France‘s Barkhane operation and Nigerien forces.
Niger’s army said in a statement late Wednesday that the joint operation, launched on June 8, had led to a clash Tuesday with “armed terrorists” which left a Nigerien dead and “12 terrorists neutralised”.
The term “neutralised” is used to mean “killed” in West African military contexts.
Dardar was formerly a member of the Al-Qaeda-linked Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO), many of whose fighters joined EIGS.
First arrested in 2014, he was handed over to Malian authorities.
But he was one of around 200 jihadist prisoners released in October 2020 in exchange for four hostages, including French aid worker Sophie Petronin.
Dardar is suspected to have been one of the armed men who mutilated three people at a market in Tin Hama in northern Mali on May 2, cutting off their hands and feet, according to local sources.
According to the UN’s Mali mission, MINUSMA, the armed men were suspected of belonging to EIGS.
Dardar’s arrest will come as welcome news for France, after President Emmanuel Macron promised in February to step up efforts to “decapitate” jihadist groups in the Sahel region.
France, the former colonial power in all three “tri-border” countries, is pursuing a strategy of targeting the leaders of militant groups…..read more