Al-Qaida names new North Africa leader, reports kidnap death

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DAKAR, Senegal (AP) — Al-Qaida’s North African branch said it has appointed a new leader after confirming the death of its former chief, who was killed in June by French forces, according to the SITE Intelligence Group.

The Washington-based group, which monitors jihadist sites, said in a video published Saturday, al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, known as AQIM, showed the dead body of its former leader, Abdelmalek Droukdel, for the first time.

AQIM also said that Yazid Mubarak, also known as Abu Ubaida Yusuf al-Annabi, is the new leader. Droukdel was killed in Mali by French forces who had been hunting him in the Sahel region for years.

Al-Qaida’s North African branch also confirmed the death of Swiss missionary Beatrice Stockly, who had been captured in January 2016 from Mali’s northern city of Timbuktu. The group attributed her death to a failed attempt by “French crusaders” to free her, and also held the Swiss government responsible for “delaying the issue and making ‘futile efforts’” according to SITE.

AQIM has made millions of dollars abducting foreigners for ransom over the years and has made large swaths of West Africa too dangerous for aid groups to access.

Rita Katz, director of the SITE Intelligence Groups, said via Twitter that Yusuf al-Annabi’s appointment as the new leader of AQIM is not surprising, given that he has been featured by the group in its propaganda over the past few years and has been involved in its core operations.

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