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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 22 March 2019

Mali radical preacher denies reports of his death in video

Malian and French authorities are verifying the authenticity of footage

Malian troops stand guard prior to the visit of the French Prime Minister at the Operation Barkane military French base in Gao, Mali. AFP
Malian troops stand guard prior to the visit of the French Prime Minister at the Operation Barkane military French base in Gao, Mali. AFP

Three months after the announcement of the death one of Mali's top radical preachers, a video on Friday appeared to show him alive.

French and Malian authorities in November last year said Amadou Koufa had died of injuries in the Wagadou forest following a raid led by French forces.

We "confirm the death of the jihadist Amadou Koufa in the Wagadou forest," General Abdoulaye Cisse said last year. "He died of his injuries."

"After the military operation the terrorist Koufa was seriously injured and taken away by his supporters before he died," another military official said.

The preacher was accused of stoking sectarian conflict and several violent attacks in central Mali.

Malian and French authorities are verifying the authenticity of the video in which the preacher can be seen sitting behind a table without any obvious signs of injury, denying reports of his death and responding to questions in Arabic.

"Checks are in progress," a military source in Bamako told Agence France-Presse, which obtained a copy of the footage.

"We are verifying the authenticity of the video," added French army spokesman Patrik Steiger in Paris.

At the time of his reported death, Koufa was regarded as one the top deputies to Iyad Ag Ghali, the leader of the Group to Support Islam and Muslims (GSIM), which has repeatedly struck military and civilian targets in Mali and neighbouring Burkina Faso.

The Mauritanian news agency Al-Akhbar said it had received the video from GSIM's media arm.

France helped Malian forces stave off an insurgency that took control of large parts of the north in 2012, but large swathes of the country remain out of the government's control.

The former colonial ruler has deployed the 4,500-member Barkhane force in the region in a bid to repel attacks and stem the insurgency. But militant groups have continued operating in Mali and neighbouring countries.

This month French forces said they killed a top terrorist leader in Mali, following an air and ground ambush. Djamel Okacha was accused of masterminding the kidnapping of Westerners in the Sahel region.

His death "deals a very hard blow to terrorist groups in the Sahel," said Defence Minister Florence Parly.

Updated: March 2, 2019 08:49 PM

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