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Death of a terrorist leader in the Sahel: “We can expect new strategies from the French special forces”, according to an expert

Death of a terrorist leader in the Sahel: “We can expect new strategies from the French special forces”, according to an expert

“The French army is said to have chased him for 18 months, which shows that tracking is difficult in these places”, West African terrorism expert Grégor Mathias reacts to France Thursday, September 16 after the “neutralization” for France of the leader of the jihadist group Islamic State in the Great Sahara (EIGS), Adnan Abou Walid al-Sahraoui. “The areas are huge, practically the size of Europe, in several countries”, explains the researcher who is also associated with the chair of geopolitics at the Rennes School of Business. “We can expect new strategies from the French special forces.”

franceinfo: Is this a decisive blow, as the French authorities say?

Gregor Mathias: Absolutely. However, he is someone who has done a lot in the field of terrorism in the last ten years. He was the spokesman for the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa, which took power in northern Mali. He was also formed in the Polisario Front in Western Sahara, as his two assistants were Saharawis. He really trusted these people not to be captured. Now, it is possible to think that these groups can disperse and reconstitute themselves as they have already happened. They may well join other groups like Katiba Macina or al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.

“These are groups that usually protect drug and arms traffickers.”

Gregor Mathias

to France

Did this chief reign over a territory and a population?

He has done a lot in the territory of the three borders between Burkina Faso, Niger and Mali, where the borders are neither formal nor secure. Therefore, it is very easy to move from one place to another, usually by motorcycle, as some civilians do. The French army is said to have chased him for 18 months, which shows that tracking is difficult in these locations. And then you have a lot of ways to keep those territories. You have to make wedding rings, so he married some locals. It is extremely important because you are part of a clan. Second, they are groups that often protect drug or arms traffickers. It is also a means of financing. They often have their networks and help protect all the informal groups that circulate.

Is France moving towards this type of targeted attacks by some influential authorities?

The areas are huge, practically the size of Europe, in several countries. The new strategy is to bring in special forces from France, Europe and neighboring G5 Sahel countries to target these highly mobile groups. So we can really expect this type of operation to target terrorist leaders in the long run.

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