French President Emmanuel Macron said late Wednesday that the French forces have "neutralized" the leader of Islamic State in the Greater Sahara, Adnan Abu Walid al-Sahrawi, in "a major success" after eight years of fighting terrorism in Africa's Sahel region. He did not provide any details, including where al-Sahrawi was killed or how, though ISIS's Sahara affiliate is active in the border area of Mali and Niger. French Defense Minister Florence Parly tweeted that "this is a decisive blow against this terrorist group."
The death of al-Sahrawi has been rumored for weeks in Mali, though France did not say how it verified his death and there has been no independent confirmation, The Associated Press reports. Al-Sahrawi, a leader in the Malian Islamist group MUJAO, switched allegiance from al Qaeda to ISIS in 2015. He claimed responsibility for a 2017 attack in Niger that killed four U.S. service members and four Niger military personnel, and ISIS-Sahel is believed to still have American Jeffrey Woodke as a hostage.