Abu Iyadh al-Tunisi, a senior al-Qaeda member and the architect of the Islamist group Ansar al-Sharia in Tunisia, has been killed in an operation by French forces, according to Menastream. The operation took place in El Aklé, nearly 186 miles northwest of Timbuktu, Mali, on the border with Mauritania.
Abu Iyadh, an Afghanistan veteran, founded Ansar al-Sharia in Tunisia after the Tunisian Revolution in 2011. Swearing his allegiance to al-Qaeda, the influential jihadi is credited with mobilizing thousands of radical militants. Abu Iyadh commanded the strike on the American consulate in Tunisia and is believed to be the mastermind behind the political murders of Chokri Belaid and Mohamed Brahmi. Abu Iyadh was also in talks with Turki Mubarak Abdullah Ahmad al-Binali, an Islamic scholar and a senior member of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.
Abu Iyadh would escape the Tunisian government frequently over the years before crossing the border into Libya and seeking secure refuge in Derna. The whereabouts of Abu Iyadh have been a mystery after he fled Tunisia and the authorities claimed him dead in 2015. Tunisian news outlet Akher Khabar reported that Abu Iyadh left Libya for Mali in 2016 where he would continue his work under the branch al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). The report turned out to be correct since French forces killed Abu Iyadh in northern Mali.
Abu Iyadh faced his demise in El Aklé, Timbuktu, Mali, by French forces in what’s known as Operation Barkhane. The operation took place within the borders of Mauritania. The French air force, based in Niger, supported ground forces during the offensive, showing a dependable approach to killing High Value Targets (HVTs) in Mali.
Last week, French soldiers from Operation Barkhane killed Algerian Yahya Abu al-Hammam, a senior commander in Jama’a Nusrat ul-Islam wa al-Muslimin (JNIM). It would suggest al-Qaeda may be at risk of losing its leadership and a foothold in Mali, as two high-ranking representatives killed in the same week cannot be good news for the group’s operational status.