Malian military officials are claiming that Oumar Ould Hamaha, who has served as the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa, has been killed during a series of French airstrikes in northern Mali. From Reuters:
Two Malian military sources said Hamaha – a former member of al Qaeda’s north African wing (AQIM) who later became a leader of Mali’s Movement for Unity and Jihad in the Islamic Maghreb (MUJAO) – had been killed by French air strikes.
One of the sources said that Algerian militant Abou Walid Sahraoui, another former AQIM fighter who played a prominent role in MUJAO, had also been killed by strikes in the Tigharghar mountains in remote northeastern Mali.
Neither France’s defense ministry nor foreign ministry would confirm the death of Hamaha or Sahraoui.
Until either the French or jihadists confirm Hamaha’s death, it is not confirmed. African officials have a spotty record in reporting the deaths of top terrorist leaders. In March 2013, Chadian officials, including the president, claimed that its military forces killed Mokhtar Belmokhtar, a top al Qaeda leader in the Sahel. A month later, the leader of MUJAO claimed he was alive. In May, Belmokhtar appeared and claimed credit for the deadly assaults on a uranimum mine and a military barracks in Niger.
Hamaha is wanted by the US; the State Department offered a $3 million reward for information leading to his arrest and conviction.
MUJAO merged with Belmokhtar’s group, the al-Mulathameen Brigade, and formed the al-Murabitoon. Belmokhtar and MUJAO’s emir, Ahmed el Tilemsi, as said to have stepped aside to allow an unnamed commander who previously fought in Afghanistan to take the helm. Hamaha’s role in al-Murabitoon has not been made public.