March 02, 2019
Amadou Koufa appears in video three months after French armed forces minister declared him ‘neutralised’
Malian and French soldiers on patrol in Mali, where France has been aiding counter-insurgency efforts. Photograph: Benoit Tessier/Reuters
A senior jihadist leader in Mali whom France said it had killed last November survived the attack and appears in a new propaganda video mocking French and Malian forces.
The French armed forces minister, Florence Parly, told parliament a few days after the 22 November raid that Amadou Koufa, a radical preacher and senior leader of a militant group linked to al-Qaida, was one of 35 fighters who had been “neutralised”.
Mali’s army also said Koufa had been killed, in what was seen as a blow to Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimin (JNIM), Mali’s strongest Islamist militant group.
But Koufa, sporting a white turban and dyed red beard, appears in a video published by Mauritanian media and circulated on social media this week, in which he mocks the claims that he has been killed.
According to the US-based SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors jihadist websites and confirmed the video’s authenticity, Koufa tells an interviewer that the announcement of his survival was delayed “to observe political reactions … to design the best plans to deal with them in the media, politically and on the ground”.
A spokesman for France’s army chief of staff said authorities were in the process of authenticating the video. A Malian army spokesman declined to comment.
Parly said last week French forces had killed Yahia Abou Hamman, JNIM’s number two, in a raid on 21 February.
Violence by jihadist groups has proliferated in the scrublands of the west African Sahel in recent years, with groups linked to al-Qaida and the Islamic State using central and northern Mali as a launchpad for attacks across the largely desert region.
French forces intervened in Mali, a former French colony, in 2013 to push back a jihadist advance but the militants have since regrouped. Some 4,500 French troops remain based in the wider Sahel, most of them in Mali.