french soldiers Mali
A French soldier from the 21st Rima prepares a Famas machine gun, at the Malian army 101 airbase AFP

French Special Forces have confirmed the death of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb commander Mohamed Ali Ag Wadossene in a raid in the northern Malian region of Kidal.

The French-led operation, which included personnel from Mali's special forces took place on 5 July, Reuters reported. Malian sources had previously indicated Wadossene was the target of the attack.

The Al-Qaeda commander was identified as a local and regional leader for the group in Kidal. He was one of a four militants freed in exchange for kidnapped French businessman Serge Lazarevic.

French President Francois Hollande  hostage Serge Lazarevic Villacoublay airport Paris.
Francois Hollande and former hostage Serge Lazarevic hug each at the Villacoublay military airport, near Paris Reuters

The 50-year-old was snatched from a hotel in Hombori, north-eastern Mali, with his business associate Philippe Verdon in November 2011, who was then shot dead by Al-Qaeda in March 2013.

Wadossene was believed to have been involved in Lazarevic's 2011 kidnapping.

The French Army said in a statement: "This operation, which destablises the chain of command of one of AQIM's katibas (brigades), once again delivers a heavy blow to terrorist armed groups in the Sahel."

French forces returned to Mali, a former French colony, in 2013 in response to the destabilising influence of Ansar Dine, a jihadi fighting group, which took control of vast swathes of the country following a Tuareg ethnic insurrection.

Since its intervention in Mali, France has expanded its anti-Islamist mission to Burkina Faso and other neighbouring countries in north-west Africa.

Ansar Dine has an informal affiliation with Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb through its leader, Iyad Ag Ghaly.The group has been excluded from ongoing negotiations in Mali to end its three-year conflict.