Pascal Guyot / AFP – Getty Images file
Among the targets of intelligence collection around Tongo Tongo, NBC News reported Tuesday, was the immediate circle of leadership surrounding a militant named Adnan Abu Walid al-Sahraoui, a veteran insurgent originally from Laayoune in Western Sahara, according to two U.S. military officials.
“We can’t discuss specific targeting details for operational security reasons,” an official from Special Operations Command Africa told NBC News.
Al-Sahraoui is affiliated with the insurgent group Al-Mourabitoun, which was led for many years by Mokhtar Belmokhtar, aka the “Marlboro Man.” Belmokhtar has been reported killed numerous times, most recently in Libya in June 2015 from a U.S. airstrike.
“These groups in West Africa have been brutal in their campaigns, not just in their attacks against security forces, but also against hotels, against civilian sites,” Zarate said. “I think the concern in the U.S. is that this is another jihadi playground where if they are not contained early, if they are not fought off, this this is a problem that can metastasize and grow more regionally and more globally in terms of the threat.”