Algerian Yahya Abu al-Hammam, a senior commander in Jama’a Nusrat ul-Islam wa al-Muslimin (JNIM) was killed in a special operation led by French forces. Yahya Abu al-Hammam ranked number two in the organization behind the Malian Tuareg Iyad Ag Ghaly.

The assassination was conducted by French soldiers from the task force Operation Barkhane, an anti-insurgent operation in Africa’s Sahel region that started in August, 2014. It includes a 3,000-strong French force, with permanent headquarters in N’Djamena the capital of Chad.

French soldiers kill al-Quaeda Malian leader Yahya Abu al-Hammam
Yahya Abu al-Hammam, born Djamel Okacha, a U.S.- and U.N.-designated terrorist and al-Qaeda (Counter Extremist Project)

JNIM is a militant terror organization operating in the Sahel and West Africa. It’s the official branch of al-Qaeda in Mali, formed by the merger of Ansar Dine, the Macina Liberation Front, al-Mourabitoun, and the Saharan branch.

Limited information about the operation–including where the operation took place–led to speculations on the al-Qaeda leader’s whereabouts. Certainly this will come as a huge blow to al-Qaeda and a strong loss for Iyad Ag Ghaly.