The French ministry says that a raid by its army in northern Mali has killed four members of a North African group linked to al-Qaida, including one of its leaders.

The ministry in a statement Wednesday said that the raids on May 17 and 18 by special forces in northern Mali killed Hamada Ag Hama, whose alias is "Abdelkrim the Tuareg" and who was a leader of al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb. The ministry said forces also killed Ibrahim Ag Inawalen, known as "Bana" a lower level leader with another extremist group, Ansar Dine.

Tuareg rebel groups seized control of northern Mali in early 2012 but then al-Qaida-linked Islamic militants won control shortly afterward. Troops from former colonizer France later led a military offensive to dislodge the extremists.