The hunt continues: the French anti-jihadist force “Barkhane” has arrested a ” frame “ of the Islamic State group in the greater Sahara (EIGS), one more success in the now-claimed policy of targeting the leaders of the jihadist groups in the area.
Dadi Ould Chouaïb, alias Abou Dardar, “One of the executives of the EIGS”, is “Also suspected of having mutilated three men on May 2 during the weekly market in Tin Hama” (north), said the French general staff in a statement, specifying that the jihadist had surrendered without resistance and that he was wearing “An automatic weapon, a night vision scope, a combat vest, a telephone and a radio”.
The arrest took place on June 11 in the morning, in the area known as “From the three borders”, on the borders of Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso, one of the main areas of action of jihadist groups established in the Sahel, in particular the EIGS. He had been spotted there by a helicopter during a joint operation between “Barkhane” and the Nigerien armed forces.
Abu Dardar is a former member of the Movement for Uniqueness and Jihad in West Africa (Mujao), some of whose executives created the EIGS. Arrested for the first time in 2014, he was handed over to the Malian authorities. But he was one of some two hundred jihadists released in October 2020 in exchange for four hostages, including the French Sophie Pétronin, at the end of negotiations in which Paris had claimed not to have been associated.
“Decapitate these organizations”
On May 2, armed men gathered the crowd at the weekly market in Tin Hama and presented them with three men described as thieves whose right hand and left foot they had cut off, according to information gathered from local interlocutors. expressing on condition of anonymity. These armed men were presumed to belong to EIGS, the UN Mission in Mali (Minusma) said.
According to a security source, since his release in October, “He was cadi [juge islamique] in the Ansongo-Ménaka area. I would qualify him as a second-rank commander, important at the local level ”, she said, also emphasizing both her long absence from the field and her short-lived return which puts her weight in the organization into perspective.
His interpellation is nonetheless welcome for France, which President Emmanuel Macron had promised in February, during a summit with the heads of state of the region, “Reinforced action” for “Try to go and behead these organizations”, dont “The highest hierarchy continues to feed a jihadist agenda”.
Paris has therefore since adopted a strategy aimed primarily at chefs. “Barkhane” has just called for the elimination of a cadre of the Al-Qaida group in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), an opponent of the EIGS in the area. Baye Ag Bakabo was responsible for the kidnapping and death of two French RFI journalists, Ghislaine Dupont and Claude Verlon, murdered in Kidal (northern Mali) on November 2, 2013.
Targeted fight against jihadists
Operation “Barkhane” is now officially promised to end soon. It will be replaced by a lighter international support and combat support system for troops from the countries of the region, at the cost of a hoped-for increase in power from Europeans and a major investment from the states concerned.
France no longer wishes to attempt to secure areas where States are unable to maintain a foothold, in order to concentrate on the targeted fight against jihadists and the support of local forces. A reorientation that comes as the 2022 presidential election draws closer in France, where this military commitment raises growing questions, especially with regard to the fifty soldiers killed in action since 2013.
But this strategy raises fears that certain areas of the Sahel, in particular northern Mali, will pass completely into the hands of jihadist groups, as the local states seem unable to restore their authority in these vast desert bands and extremely poor.