Al Qaeda’s central and western North Africa branch appointed Algerian Abu Obaida Yusuf al-Annabi as its leader after French military forces killed Abdelmalek Droukdel in June.
Annabi, also known as Sheikh Mujahid Yazid Mubarak, was formerly the head of al-Qaeda on the Council of Dignitaries of the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and has been on a blacklist of American terrorism since 2015. He is a ardent defender of jihad against the French. the army’s ongoing anti-terrorism mission in the Maghreb.
AQIM published a video announcing Annabi’s meeting and showing Droukdel’s body over the weekend, according to the SITE monitoring group, which tracks jihadist publications.
The group also confirmed that Béatrice Stoeckli, a Swiss missionary kidnapped in Mali in 2016, had died.
News of Stoeckli’s death first came from a French aid worker who was released in October during a prisoner exchange with the Malian government. At the time, the Swiss government blamed the al-Qaeda franchise in Mali, Jama’at Nasr al-Islam wal Muslimin, for his death.
AQIM said in the video that she died from the forces of the “French crusaders” trying to save her.
Annabi’s predecessor started as an explosives expert for the Armed Islamic Group in Mali, a group that originated in Algeria in the 1990s.
Droukdel announced an alliance with al-Qaeda in 2007, saying he had consulted with Osama bin Laden and pledged to be loyal to the terrorist leader.
Under Droukdel’s leadership, AQIM carried out repeated attacks against civilians and security forces in Algeria as well as kidnappings of local and foreign personnel before expanding its operations in the Sahel.
AQIM eventually took control of parts of rural northern Mali, prompting French military intervention in 2014.
The approximately 5,000-strong French Operation Barkhane operates in five countries in northwest Africa and has been supported by other NATO allies.
French officials said US intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance services were vital to the continued progress of the operation.