A French military offensive in Mali has killed an al-Qaeda-led jihadist leader suspected of helping orchestrate the 2013 kidnapping and murder of two French journalists, France's defense minister said Friday.
Three other extremists were killed in an anti-terrorist operation near Aguelhok in northern Mali over the weekend. The operation was aimed at a group suspected of planning attacks against UN forces in the region.
French authorities have identified one of those killed as Baye ag Bakabo, believed to be behind the kidnapping and murder of Ghislaine Dupont and Claude Verlon, a journalist for Radio France Internationale, in November 2013.
The killings sparked renewed efforts to protect journalists in conflict areas.
RFI said Friday the jihadist leader was driving the beige pickup truck used for hijacking and over the past few months led an armed group tasked with eliminating anyone suspected of collaborating with French forces in the Sahel.
RFI expressed regret that he was killed instead of being arrested. Only one member of the department behind the kidnapping survived, RFI said.
The announcement of his death came a day after French President Emmanuel Macron announced a reduction in French troops in the Sahel and a major reorganization of France's military operations in Mali and neighboring countries to rely more on regional partners.