The French military confirmed on Thursday that an airstrike in Mali last week killed a leading senior member and four other terrorists of the African-based al-Qaeda affiliate Katiba Serma.
Nasser Al Tergui was spotted by a drone on Oct. 15 while seated in a vehicle carrying five individuals, according to the French military. The vehicle was moving about 60 miles northwest of Gossi, a rural commune in Mali.
“The cross-checking of various information made it possible to confirm the presence … of Nasser Al Tergui,” the French Ministry of the Armed Forces said in an Oct. 21 press release, French news agency AA reported.
Barkhane military forces, under which France has about 5,100 soldiers deployed across five countries in the Sahel region, launched a military operation the following day to intercept the vehicle, which refused to stop.
“In cooperation with the partner forces, after having again confirmed the presence of Nasser Al Tergui aboard the vehicle, the soldiers of the Barkhane force decided to launch an operation,” the army said.
Operation Barkhane was launched in 2014 to combat the jihadi insurgency in Africa’s Sahel region.
The ministry confirmed that two airstrikes were launched at the target, which destroyed the vehicle and the five Katiba Serma members, an armed group affiliated with al Qaeda—a multinational terrorist network that was founded in 1988 by Osama bin Laden, among several others.
Al Tergui’s death “will reduce the capacity to cause harm of an armed terrorist group known for carrying out attacks against local forces and numerous acts of violence against the local population,” the army said in a statement that was obtained by news agency AFP.
The jihadist commander joined al-Qaeda in 2012 and had “major operational responsibilities” in the terrorist group, it added.
“He was notably specialized in planting improvised explosive devices,” according to the statement.
Reuters contributed to this report.