ALGIERS/DAKAR (Reuters) – French forces have killed Abdelhamid Abou Zeid, one of the most feared commanders of al Qaeda’s north Africa wing (AQIM), during an operation against Islamist fighters in mountainous northern Mali, Algeria’s Ennahar television said on Thursday.
Abou Zeid was among 40 militants killed three days ago in the foothills of the Adrar des Ifoghas mountains near the Algerian border, said Ennahar, which is well connected with Algeria’s security services.
DAKAR (Reuters) – Gunmen claiming to be from Nigeria’s Boko Haram Islamist group threatened on Monday to kill a kidnapped French family of seven if authorities in Nigeria and Cameroon do not release Muslim militants held there.
French ministers said they believed the three adults and four children seized in Cameroon’s far north near the Nigerian border on Tuesday were being held by Boko Haram which has killed hundreds to try to carve out an Islamist state in Nigeria.
DAKAR (Reuters) – A video appearing to show seven French citizens, including four children, kidnapped in Cameroon last week was posted on the YouTube website on Monday.
“We have been taken by Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati wal-Jihad,” one of the male hostages said in the video, referring to the name in Arabic of Nigeria’s Boko Haram militants. “They want the liberation of their brothers in Cameroon and their women imprisoned in Nigeria.”
PARIS/DAKAR (Reuters) – A French soldier and more than 20 Islamist rebels were killed during what appeared to be the first clashes in the Adrar des Ifoghas mountain range where militants have taken refuge in northern Mali, French officials said on Tuesday.
Speaking on a visit to Athens, French President Francois Hollande said serious fighting had broken out and was continuing in the remote area that straddles the Mali-Algeria border, resulting in several casualties among the rebels and one French legionnaire.
PARIS (Reuters) – Libya’s foreign minister called on Tuesday for Western and Arab allies to help seal his country’s borders to stop defeated Islamist rebels coming in from Mali and further destabilizing the strife-hit oil producer.
Tripoli’s government, already struggling to impose security two years after the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi, is worried al Qaeda-linked fighters pushed out of Mali by a French-led offensive could seek refuge in its vast desert territory.
PARIS (Reuters) – France wants the African-led military mission in Mali to be replaced with a United Nations peacekeeping mandate by April, Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said on Wednesday.
Having swiftly seized the main towns in northern Mali from Islamist militias in a three-week campaign, France is keen not to get bogged down in a costly long-term deployment.
PARIS (Reuters) – Countries that helped oust Muammar Gaddafi will meet in Paris next week to discuss how to stabilize Libya, which has been beset by security problems since the late dictator was toppled, French sources said on Tuesday.
France, which led international efforts to oust Gaddafi, will convene ministers and senior diplomats from the United States, Britain, Arab nations, the United Nations and European Union to Tuesday’s meeting in Paris.
KIDAL, Mali/PARIS (Reuters) – Tuareg rebels in northern Mali said on Monday they had captured two senior Islamist insurgents fleeing French air strikes toward the Algerian border and France pressed ahead with its bombing campaign against al Qaeda’s Saharan desert camps.
Pro-autonomy Tuareg MNLA rebels said one of their patrols seized Mohamed Moussa Ag Mohamed, an Islamist leader who imposed harsh sharia (Islamic law) in the desert town of Timbuktu, and Oumeini Ould Baba Akhmed, thought to be responsible for the kidnapping of a French hostage by al Qaeda splinter group MUJWA.
DOUENTZA, Mali/PARIS (Reuters) – French troops seized the airport in Mali’s northern town of Kidal, the last urban stronghold held by Islamist insurgents, as they moved to wrap up the first phase of a military operation to wrest northern Mali from rebel hands.
France has deployed some 4,500 troops in a three-week ground and air offensive to break the Islamist rebels’ 10-month grip on major northern towns. The mission is aimed at heading off the risk of Mali being used as a springboard for jihadist attacks in the wider region or Europe.
PARIS (Reuters) – Mali’s interim government in Bamako must begin immediate talks with the country’s northern population including armed groups that recognize the territorial integrity of the West African state, France said on Wednesday.
“The Malian authorities must begin without delay talks with the legitimate representatives of the northern population and non-terrorist armed groups that recognize Mali’s integrity,” French Foreign ministry spokesman Philippe Lalliot said.