French forces have killed the leader of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, Algerian Abdelmalek Droukdel, in northern Mali, France's defence minister said.
Droukdel was killed on Thursday near the Algerian border, where the group has bases from which it has carried out attacks and abductions of Westerners in the sub-Saharan Sahel zone, Defence Minister Florence Parly said on Friday.
"Many close associates" of Droukdel - who commanded several affiliate jihadist groups across the lawless region - were also "neutralised", she added.
France has deployed more than 5 000 troops to combat jihadist groups in the region - a largely lawless expanse stretching over Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger, where drugs and arms flow through porous borders.
France also claimed on Friday to have captured a leader of the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (EIGS) group, which carries out frequent attacks over Niger's western borders.