Malian jihad leader alive after strike said to have killed him


A senior jihadist leader in Mali who France said it killed in November survived the attack and appears in a new propaganda video mocking French and Malian forces, the SITE Intelligence Group said.

French Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly told parliament after the November 22 raid Amadou Koufa, a radical preacher and senior leader of a militant group linked to al Qaeda, was one of 35 fighters “neutralised”.

Mali’s army said Koufa was killed, in a blow to Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimin (JNIM), Mali’s strongest Islamist militant group.

Koufa, sporting a white turban and dyed red beard, appears in a video published by Mauritanian media and circulated on social media last week, in which he mocks claims he was killed.

He tells an interviewer announcement of his survival was delayed “to observe political reactions … to design best plans to deal with them in the media, politically and on the ground”, according to US-based SITE, which monitors jihadist websites and confirmed the video’s authenticity.

A spokesman for France’s army chief of staff said authorities were authenticating the video. A Malian army spokesman declined to comment.

Parly said last week French forces killed Yahia Abou Hamman, JNIM’s number two, in a raid on February 21.

Violence by jihadist groups proliferates in the scrublands of the West African Sahel, with groups linked to al Qaeda and Islamic State using central and northern Mali as a launchpads for attacks across the largely desert region.

French forces intervened in Mali, a former French colony, in 2013 to push back a jihadist advance but the militants regrouped. Some 4,500 French troops are based in the wider Sahel, most in Mali.