On June 3rd, French forces operating in the African country of Mali killed the emir (leader/commander) of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).
The emir, Abdelmalek Droukdel, 50, had led the Al-Qaeda branch for over 15 years. Droukdel was born in Algeria and would travel to Afghanistan to fight against Soviet forces in the 1980's. He would also fight in the Afghan Civil War before returning home to fight in the Algerian Civil War in the late 1990's. He joined AQ in 2007 and had been an influential figure since.
According to the French military he, and an unknown amount of his inner circle, were killed in the June 3rd operation. US AFRICOM also confirmed Droukdel's death and provided intelligence support for the operation.
It's unclear who will take over as the new emir for AQIM. One possibility is Yayha Abu el-Hamman, a senior leader in the group charged with planning operations and kidnappings. el-Hamman is wanted by the US Rewards for Justice program with a $5 million bounty for his arrest. He was also sentenced to death in absentia by the Algerian government for terrorism-related charges.
French forces are operating in northern Africa as part of Operation Barkhane. The French-led operation began in 2014 as an effort to clear the Sahel region. It is the successor to Operation Serval. Launched in 2013, Operation Serval was an offensive by French forces to retake the northern half of Mali that was captured by Islamist groups. The 18-month long operation was successful, at the cost of 10 French soldiers and at least 144 soldiers from African allied nations.