Nouakchott — A terrorist with an international bounty on his head was among the al-Qaeda fighters killed by French airstrikes in Mali, a Malian military official announced on Friday (March 14th).
Oumar Ould Hamaha, the spokesman for the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO) and a former lieutenant to terrorist Mokhtar Belmokhtar (aka Laaouar), was killed between 4 and 5 March.
Ould Hamaha, known as Abou Ghoum-Ghoum, was killed between 4 and 5 March in the Amettetai Valley, in the Kidal region, after he and the other terrorists were spotted by French forces operating drones.
Algerian Abou Walid Sahraoui, another of Belmokhtar's former henchmen, was also reportedly killed in the strike.
Laaouar "is believed to have married one of Omar Ould Hamaha's daughters. Such was the closeness of their relationship", Malian reporter Assanatou Balde told Magharebia.
Ould Hamaha, nicknamed "Red Beard" because he regularly died his facial hair with henna, was implicated in the April 2012 abduction of Algerian diplomats in Gao.
The Rewards for Justice programme had offered $3 million dollars (2.2 million euros) for information leading to his capture.
"If he is really dead, this would be a major blow in the battle against terrorism in northern Mali, where groups are still at large," the journalist said. "MUJAO was also behind the abuses perpetrated against communities in the region."
Terrorism expert Sidati Ould Cheikh explained that after attending a French-Arab secondary school, Abou Ghoum-Ghoum studied at a qur'anic school in Mauritania.
"In 2001, he joined al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) as a lieutenant of Mokhtar Belmokhtar," he said.
"The ebullient jihadist distinguished himself during the occupation in 2012 of northern Mali where he joined Ansar al-Din, which controlled Timbuktu and Gao. He later became the spokesman of the MUJAO," the expert noted.
The Malian operative was "a prominent figure in the offensive launched by Iyad ag Ghaly with support from MUJAO and AQIM", which spurred France to intervene by conducting Operation Serval in Mali, terrorism and organised crime expert Alain Rodier said.
Military operations conducted by France in northern Mali have dealt a heavy blow to the terrorist movements in the region, observers note.
Days before the drone strike on the dozen terrorists in the Adrar, an Algerian AQIM leader in Timbuktu and Kidal was eliminated by French troops, jihadist sources reported.'
Redouan Abou el Achbal (aka Aboubakr Benabdellah) was the top al-Qaeda figure in Timbuktu and Kidal.
The same week, Mauritanian AQIM figures Oumar Ould Mohamed Ghoulam (known as Al Ghallawi) and Mohamedou Khoubeib were killed in Timbuktu, Mauritanian website Sahara Media reported.
"With more than 400 terrorists killed, it is a major victory," Mauritanian police commissioner Mohamed Abdallahi Ould Addi noted.