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French special forces kill AQIM fighter who had been exchanged for hostage
An al Qaeda fighter who had been released in exchange for former French hostage Serge Lazarevic was killed by French special forces during a raid in the Kidal region of northern Mali yesterday. Mohamad Ali Ag Wadossene, a member of al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), al Qaeda's official branch in North Africa, had previously been captured by French forces in Mali sometime last year.
The Associated Press reported that yesterday's operation occurred in the Tigharghar mountains in the northern Kidal region. A Malian military official stated that a dozen other AQIM fighters were also captured in the assault.
The French Ministry of Defense has released a statement saying "two terrorists were captured," along with the killing of Wadossene.
French special forces also killed two al Qaeda leaders, Hamada Ag Hama and Ibrahim Ag Inawalen, in a nighttime raid in northern Mali in May. Hama, who also went by Abdul Karim al Tuareg, was the leader of AQIM's Katibat al Ansar. He was responsible for taking several French hostages in the North African country, according to RFI. Inawalen was a leader in Ansar Dine, a jihadist group within al Qaeda's network in Mali.
Wadossene, along with three others, had been released by the Malian government in exchange for the release of Lazarevic late last year. Lazarevic was seized in 2011 in Mali by jihadists affiliated to AQIM. He was kidnapped along with another French national, Philippe Verdon, who was killed by AQIM in 2013. Wadossene assisted in their capture, according to RFI.
However, a jihadist in a recent AQIM video claimed that seven of the jihadist group's fighters were released in the exchange, including two that were involved in the kidnapping of Lazarevic. The same video shows Swedish hostage Johan Gustofsson and South African hostage Stephen McGowan pleading to their respective governments for their release. McGowan and Gustofsson were kidnapped in Timbuktu in 2011, at the same time as Dutch citizen Sjaak Rijke.
Rijke appeared in an AQIM video released in November alongside Lazarevic, in which both appealed to their respective governments for their release. Rijke was freed in April after a French raid on AQIM militants in northern Mali. According to the BBC, his presence caught the French special operators by surprise; it was only after the fighting was over that they realized the militants were holding the Dutch hostage.
AQIM has a history of taking Western hostages for propaganda purposes and as a source of revenue. In 2010, Michel Germaneau, a French hostage held by AQIM, died while in captivity. And in 2013, four French hostages were released by AQIM after being held for three years; it is speculated that a ransom of 20 million Euros was paid to free them. France officially denies paying any ransoms for these individuals or for Lazarevic.
AQIM was also responsible for the kidnapping of Spanish nationals in Mauritania and an Italian and French national in Mali in 2009, as well as many more abductions throughout North Africa. The al Qaeda branch's prolific kidnappings have even led senior al Qaeda leaders to tighten their control over hostage-taking, possibly to better coordinate these types of operations.
In November 2010, AQIM emir Abdelmalek Droukdel said that France would have to negotiate with Osama bin Laden himself to secure the release of several French hostages.
[Source: By Caleb Weiss, The Long War Journal, NJ, 07Jul15]
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