Adnan Abou Walid al-Sahraoui, the head of the jihadist group Islamic State in the Greater Sahara, who had carried out several deadly attacks in Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso, was “neutralized” in the course of August by the French Army. Portrait of who was designated by France as the “priority enemy” in the Sahel.
The French forces killed Adnan Abou Walid al-Sahraoui, a historical figure of the jihad in the Sahel and whose elimination was described by President Emmanuel Macron as a “major achievement” for France.
The Minister of the Armed Forces, Florence Parly, specified this Thursday, September 16, during a Press conference, that Adnan Abou Walid al-Sahraoui “succumbed after his injuries, caused by an attack by Barkhane forces in August 2021.”
Designated as a “priority enemy” in the Sahel, after the Pau summit in January 2020, Walid al-Sahraoui was the head of the branch of the organization Islamic State in the Sahel (OEIS), after having sworn allegiance to the group Islamic State (IS) terrorist in 2015.
His death comes “after 18 months of constant efforts against this organization that is the expression of Daesh in the Sahel,” confessed Florence Parly.
“A veteran of the jihad”
Adnan Abou Walid al-Sahraoui, whose name appeared on the Reward for Justice program of the US Department of State., was considered the main responsible for most of the attacks that were regular and bloody targeting the military, but also civilians in the area of the three borders, on horseback on Mali, Niger, and Burkina Faso.
“We estimate that the OEIS is responsible for the death of two thousand to three thousand civilians,” said the minister of the French Armed Forces.
Identified in Morocco as Lahbib Abdi Said, this Moroccan citizen was born approximately in the 1970s in Western Sahara. In fact, he was a member of the Polisario Front, the Saharawi independence movement.
Adnan Abou Walid al-Sahraoui, due to his military profile, “is a veteran of the jihad,” Wassim Nasr, a specialist in jihadist movements, explained to France 24. that allowed him to enjoy a certain aura and an ascendancy over his men ”.
The expert added that “after passing through the Polisario Front, he very quickly joined the ranks of the jihadists in the Sahel, first allying with the Mujao, which is part of an alliance with Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, before to join up with Al-Mourabitoun, then led by Mokhtar Belmokhtar, to later become the organization’s spokesperson ”.
“Authoritarian and autocratic emir”
This “authoritarian and autocratic” emir, according to the terms of Florence Parly, then decides to go free since 2015. “He decides in the course of October this year, taking advantage of his rank as spokesman, to lend allegiance on behalf of Al-Mourabitoun to the IS ”, indicates Wassim Nasr. “A challenge to Mokhtar Belmokhtar, who will then be obliged to deny this act of loyalty himself.”
In October 2016, a year later, the IS publicly recognized the loyalty of Adnan Abou Walid al-Sahraoui, placing him de facto as the leader of his jihadist group. “Then he had to wait until 2019 for the IS, which distrusted him because of his past ties with Al-Queda, to begin to claim operations committed by Al-Mourabitoun; when the last feat of arms happened in October 2017 with the attack that killed four American soldiers of the Special Forces and four Nigerians in an ambush in Tongo Tongo, in the south-east of Niger ”.
By the end of 2019, the OEIS had carried out a series of massive attacks against military bases in Mali and Niger, leaving dozens dead in the ranks of the local armies.
On August 9, 2020, in Niger, the head of the OEIS had, according to Florence Parly, ordered the murder of six French humanitarian workers with their Nigerian guide and driver. This attack on young volunteers on a humanitarian mission shocked France and Niger.
Its “neutralization”, according to the same terms of the French General Staff, is a setback for the OEIS and the IS, which intensified its power in the region thanks to Adnan Abou Walid al-Sahraoui, estimates Wassim Nasr. “This elimination, operated by a drone attack, is part of a series of captures and liquidations of various OEIS leaders by the French Army and its allies in recent months.”