Three other extremists were also killed during a counterterrorism operation carried out this weekend around Aguelhok in northern Mali, French Defense Minister Florence Parly said.
The operation was carried out against a group suspected of preparing an attack on UN forces in the region.
French authorities identified one of the deceased as Baye ag Bakabo, suspected of organizing the kidnapping and murder of Ghislaine Dupont and Claude Verlon of Radio France Internationale in November 2013.
The killings sparked new efforts to protect journalists in conflict zones.
Radio France Internationale reported on Friday that Baye ag Bakabo had driven the beige van used for the kidnapping, and that in recent months he had led an armed group that aimed to eliminate “all those suspected of collaborating” with the French forces operating. in the Sahel.
The broadcaster regretted that he was killed instead of being captured, saying that “his testimony could have raised the areas of doubt which continue to cast a shadow on this affair”.
Only one member of the unit behind the kidnapping is still alive, the broadcaster said.
The announcement of the extremist’s death came the day after French President Emmanuel Macron – currently in Cornwall for the G7 summit – announced a reduction of French forces in the Sahel and a “profound transformation” of the France’s military operation in Mali and in neighboring countries so that it relies more on regional partners.