Death of most wanted French jihadist ‘confirmed by DNA tests’

Death of most wanted French jihadist 'confirmed by DNA tests'
Photo: AFP
DNA test results have confirmed that a jihadist, described as France's most wanted terrorist after inspiring several terror attacks on French soil, has been killed in a drone strike in Iraq, according to media reports on Wednesday.

The death of French jihadist Rachid Kassim, suspected of inspiring several attacks in France, has been confirmed by DNA tests according to reports in France on Wednesday.

France's LCI media were the first to report the confirmation saying American secret services had the proof through DNA test results that Kassim, who was targeted in a drone strike earlier this month, had indeed been killed.

The reports, which have not yet been officially confirmed, come after The Pentagon revealed last Friday that Kassim was targeted in a coalition air strike near the Iraqi city of Mosul.

While several French media outlets had reported Kassim's death, authorities in France and the US preferred to play it safe.

“We can confirm that coalition forces targeted Rashid Kassim, a senior Isis operative, near Mosul in a strike in the past 72 hours,” said Pentagon spokesman Major Adrian J.T. Rankine-Galloway on Friday.

“We are currently assessing the results of that strike and will provide more information when it becomes available.”

Also on Friday in Paris, a high-ranking official involved in counterterror operations told AFP on condition of anonymity there was not “absolute confirmation” of his death, but that the probability was high.

Kassim, in his 30s, is believed to have inspired an attack last year in which a senior French policeman and his partner were knifed to death and another in which an elderly priest was killed when his throat was cut.

He is suspected of using the encrypted Telegram app to direct attacks on France from Isis-controlled territory in Iraq or Syria.

Originally from Roanne in the Loire Valley, Kassim is suspected of guiding the attacks in France from Syria and has launched on the internet numerous murderous appeals.

Dressed in fatigues with a turban on his head, the black-bearded Kassim was seen in July in an Isis propaganda video in which he praised the attacker in the Nice truck massacre that killed 86 people on the July 14 Bastille Day holiday.

US-backed Iraqi forces are currently battling to take back the remaining western districts of Mosul that are still under Isis control.

France, which is taking part in the US-led, anti-Isis coalition in Iraq and Syria, has been the target of a series of jihadist attacks since 2015 that left 238 people dead.

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