Mali: Barkhane forces neutralize ten ISGS fighters including a senior commander in Menaka

French forces of Operation Barkhane conducted an air-landed operation overnight between December 14-15 in the Menaka Region. The operation resulted in ten militants of the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS) being “put out of action”, and arms and electronic equipment seized, according to France’s General Staff of the Armies (EMA).

EMA did not provide any precisions regarding the location of the operation or any further information about the ISGS fighters targeted. However, local sources indicated that the operation took place in Inazole, southwest of Menaka, along the Ansongo-Menaka transit route. At least five militants were reportedly killed and the remaining arrested. Among those killed, Katiba Salaheddine lieutenant and ISGS member Salkou Ould Abalawe, a Tilemsi Arab of the Mashdouf tribe. The group targeted was composed of a mix of Arab, Fulani and Tuareg fighters.

The area of Inazole has witnessed several Barkhane operations and clashes between ISGS fighters and militiamen from the Movement for the Salvation of Azawad (MSA). For instance, an ISGS unit commander, Moctar Ould Libnine was killed in fighting with MSA in May 2018 in the area.

Ould Abalawe was lastly signaled on 8 July 2018 in the area of Taziwanate, near Tamkoutat, accused of being involved in the murder of four elderly Tuareg Imghad men at their camp. Ould Abalawe was also a close associate of the two cousins Aboubacar Ould Abidine (“Abu Zubeir”) and Sultan Ould Bady (“Abu Ali”), an early Sahelian member of Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), co-founder of the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO), and founder of Katiba Salaheddine. Ould Bady turned himself in to Algerian military authorities in early August 2018 in Tamanrasset, Algeria. Ould Abidine was killed less than a month ago in an air-supported operation by the Algerian People’s National Army (ANP) on 18 November 2019 in the area of Tawendert (Tinzaouatine), Algeria. Ould Abidine had relocated to the border area between Mali and Algeria, in particular, the area of Boughessa in the extreme north of the Kidal Region. The presence of ISGS fighters in the area was already reported in February 2019.