Alleged killed Malian jihadist leader is alive
Amadou Koufa appears in video three months after French armed forces minister declared him ‘neutralised’
A senior jihadist leader in Mali whom France said it had killed last November survived the attack and appears in a new propaganda video mocking French and Malian forces.
The French armed forces minister, Florence Parly, told parliament a few days after the 22 November raid that Amadou Koufa, a radical preacher and senior leader of a militant group linked to al-Qaida, was one of 35 fighters who had been “neutralised”.
Mali’s army also said Koufa had been killed, in what was seen as a blow to Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimin (JNIM), Mali’s strongest Islamist militant group.
But Koufa, sporting a white turban and dyed red beard, appears in a video published by Mauritanian media and circulated on social media this week, in which he mocks the claims that he has been killed.
According to the US-based SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors jihadist websites and confirmed the video’s authenticity, Koufa tells an interviewer that the announcement of his survival was delayed “to observe political reactions … to design the best plans to deal with them in the media, politically and on the ground”.
A spokesman for France’s army chief of staff said authorities were in the process of authenticating the video. A Malian army spokesman declined to comment.
Parly said last week French forces had killed Yahia Abou Hamman, JNIM’s number two, in a raid on 21 February.
Violence by jihadist groups has proliferated in the scrublands of the west African Sahel in recent years, with groups linked to al-Qaida and the Islamic State using central and northern Mali as a launchpad for attacks across the largely desert region.
French forces intervened in Mali, a former French colony, in 2013 to push back a jihadist advance but the militants have since regrouped. Some 4,500 French troops remain based in the wider Sahel, most of them in Mali.
SOURCE: The Guardian, UK