French special operations forces based out of the recently captured town of Kidal initiated a manhunt to kill or capture the Algerian-born Mokhtar Belmokhtar, commander of the al-Qaeda in Islamic Maghreb for the Mali and Algerian region.
Also part of this operation is the search and recovery of the seven French hostages throughout the Sahel region of Northern Mali. Six of the hostages are held by AQIM while the seventh is held by an allied Islamist group, the MUJAO (Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa). Belmokhtar is also the commander of the newly formed Those Who Sign with Blood Brigade that recently attacked the natural gas facility in Eastern Algeria.
French intelligence believes that Belmokhtar is hiding out in the Adrar des Ifoghas mountain range in the extreme Northeast of Mali near the Algerian border- a massif that extends over 250,000 square kilometers. Intelligence and surveillance aircraft are being provided by the United States and internal sources are already stating that Britain’s Special Air Service (SAS) and the lesser known Special Reconnaissance Regiment (SRR) are also part of the French-led special operations task force.
With the major population centers already retaken by the French and Malian troops, most of the conventional forces could begin flying out of the country in the next week. French commandos, specifically from the 1st Marine Infantry Parachute Regiment (1er RPIMa) will most likely take lead in all anti-AQIM high value target operations with the entire allied special operations task force stationed out of the forward operating base in Kidal.