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French strike kills top Islamic State militant in West Africa blamed for deadly attack on aid workers

The French government blames the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara group for the deaths of about 2,000 to 3,000 civilians in the region since 2013. “The large majority of them were Muslims,” France’s minister of the armed forces, Florence Parly, said in September.

The French military said the strike was critical to prevent an expanding footprint of the militants, but it comes as France is drawing down its presence in the region — a move that has unsettled West African governments and security analysts.

France’s military named the target of Monday’s strike as Soumana Boura, the leader of a group of dozens of militant fighters in the west of Niger, who was hiding north of the town of Tillabéri.

In a release, the French military said the operation was conducted in coordination with Nigerien authorities, adding that a team of soldiers searched the site of the strike after the killing.

French officials said Boura filmed and publicized the August attack, which was one of the worst incidents targeting European nationals in the region in years. The attackers had blazed into a wildlife reserve for endangered animals in southwestern Niger, killing the six workers, their local driver and a local guide.

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