How the French commandos killed the jihadist leader Droukdel

French armies have given some details on how Abdelmalek Droukdel, the head of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (Aqmi), was eliminated on June 3 during a special forces operation in northern Mali , a few kilometers from the Algerian border. More than a week later, Thursday June 11, a briefing was organized in Paris at the Ministry of the Armed Forces: supporting videos and photos (rare elements in French military communication), a general familiar with the file presented the major intervention lines.

On these last intelligence images before the assault, taken from a French Reaper drone, the vehicle is visible as well as the bivouac in the rocks nearby.
© Ministry of the Armed Forces
In this image from a video taken from a French Tiger helicopter on June 3, we can distinguish the vehicle from the terrorists.
© Ministry of the Armed Forces

On June 3, the day the target was identified using American and French intelligence, the operation was immediately launched. Weather conditions prohibit any action the following night, the action is therefore carried out during the day, in the afternoon and in the early evening: a rare fact. The operation is considered “major” and mobilized fifteen members of the special forces on the ground, supported by two transport helicopters, two attack helicopters (a Tiger and a Gazelle) and a French Reaper drone, which made it possible to monitor the bivouac and the terrorists’ car before and during the assault.

4 dead, 1 prisoner

Four of the five people present on the scene at the time of the assault were killed, including two Algerians: the main target and one of his lieutenants, Toufik Chaib. The others, Malians, were killed, with the exception of a young fighter with a subordinate profile who surrendered without fighting, according to the Ministry of the Armed Forces.

A member of the special forces on the ground and a Gazelle attack helicopter, June 3, 2020.
© Ministry of the Armed Forces
On this image from a video taken during the assault on June 3 from a French Reaper drone, we can distinguish a black point in the center: one of the terrorists flees to the top of the image, just before the opening fire.
© Ministry of the Armed Forces

On videos taken from the drone and the Tigre helicopter, presented to journalists during the briefing Thursday June 11 – but whose dissemination is prohibited except for the five photos declassified and published here -, we can distinguish a fleeing terrorist, before exchanges of fire lasting a few seconds. According to the ministry, the French soldiers were taken to task by the terrorists and retaliated then neutralized the shooters, a few meters from them. No drone fire was recognized by the staff, but the images show that the unmanned aircraft was in laser illumination mode of the target, an action prior to firing. The bodies were not taken away: they were buried on the spot after DNA samples and searches to gather information.

A recovered computer

The vehicle used by the five terrorists on June 3, 2020.
© Ministry of the Armed Forces

According to the military, phones and their SIM cards and a computer were recovered. Once analyzed, this data could allow the armed forces to better understand the situation in the region, and in particular the sudden and violent tensions between two terrorist groups which tolerated each other until recently: the RVIM (Rally for the victory of Islam and Muslims, founded by Abdelmalek Droukdel, who integrated the forces of Aqmi), and the Islamic State in the Grand Sahara (EIGS).

On May 19, another operation had captured Mohamed el Mrabat, a senior member of the EIGS. The operation, carried out without firing a shot, according to the Ministry of the Armed Forces, had also made it possible to capture three accompanying persons of the target.

Read also Sahel: the decline of Abdelmalek Droukdel was also that of Aqmi

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