İrem UZUN -TDO- France said Friday its forces had killed a senior al-Qaida commander during an operation in northeastern Mali. Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly said that a French military strike claimed the life of Bah ag Moussa, a leader of the militant group's North Africa wing. "A historic figure of the jihadist movement in the Sahel, Bah ag Moussa is considered responsible for several attacks against Malian and international forces," Parly said in a statement.

The former Malian army colonel, also known as Bamoussa Diarra, was a right-hand man of Iyad Ag Ghali, the leader of Mali's most prominent jihadi group, Jama'at Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimin (JNIM).  Moussa, who was on the U.S. terrorism list, was killed on Tuesday after an operation involving ground troops and helicopters and comes after a series of operations that have seen French forces kill dozens of Islamist fighters in recent weeks. "This is a major success in the fight against terrorism," Parly said. 

Mali is struggling to contain an Islamist insurgency that erupted in 2012 and which has claimed thousands of military and civilian lives since.  Despite the presence of thousands of French and UN troops, the conflict has engulfed the centre of the country and spread to neighbouring Burkina Faso and Niger. According to army sources, France is now hoping to cut back its military presence from the current number of 5,100 in the region to make room for a stronger European commitment.

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