WASHINGTON — French troops claimed they killed one of the top assistants of the North African terrorist leader Belmokhar.
Reuters reported  that French troops killed the second-in-command to Mokhtar Belmokhar, Hacene Ould Khalill, whose nickname was Jouleibib. He was from Mauritania in western Africa.
Belmokhtar’s assistant was killed during a counter-terrorist operation in the northern Mali region of Tessalit. Khalill was the deputy leader of Belmokhtar’s “Those Who Sign in Blood” Brigade, which split off from al-Qaeda’s North African affiliates.
Belmokhtar was the mastermind behind a disastrous hostage situation in Algeria earlier this year, where 38 hostages were killed  at the In Amenas gas plant. The Algerian security forces refused outside help and killed almost every hostage taker in the plant. The dead hostages were international workers and came from all across the world.
He also planned the twin suicide bombing at a uranium mine and military barracks in Niger.
Islamist militants, after being driven out by the French at the start of this year, have made their presence known in Mali. A United Nations force has replaced  the French military, but the French special forces remain in operation there.