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Al Qaeda leader Abdelhamid Abou Zeid killed in Mali: Deby

Top al Qaeda leader, Abdelhamid Abou Zeid, was killed in northern Mali on Friday, Chadian President Idriss Deby has claimed.

Zeenews Bureau

N`djamena: Top al Qaeda leader, Abdelhamid Abou Zeid, was killed in northern Mali on Friday where Chadian groups are fighting with the terror group to regain control of the region, Chadian President Idriss Deby has claimed.

Zeid is an Alegerian national and is second-in-command in Islamic Maghreb, an affiliate of al Qaeda, which is fighting in northern Mali. He is behind the kidnapping and murder of several Westerners.

However, his death could not be immediately verified, as per agency report.

Officials in Mali and in France, which is leading an international military intervention in Mali against Islamic extremists linked to AQIM, could not confirm the death. The White House had no immediate reaction to the announcement. The U.S. has offered drones and intelligence help to the French-led operation.

The Chadian president`s spokesman said that Deby announced the death of Abou Zeid during a ceremony Friday for Chadian soldiers killed in fighting in Mali. Deby said, "It was our soldiers who killed two big Islamist chiefs in northern Mali," including Abou Zeid, according to the spokesman.

The spokesman insisted on anonymity because he was not authorized to speak ahead of an announcement on state television on the matter. It was unclear when it was expected, and the spokesman gave no further details, the report stated.

Zeid has led one of the most violent brigades of al Qaeda`s North African franchise and helped lead the extremist takeover of northern Mali, was thought to be 47 years old.

He was a pillar of the southern realm of al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, or AQIM, responsible for the death of at least two European hostages. He was believed to be holding four French nationals kidnapped two years ago at a uranium mine in Niger. The fate of those hostages, working for French company Areva, was unclear Friday night.

Abou Zeid held a Frenchman released in February 2010, and another who was executed that July. He`s also been linked to the execution of a British hostage in 2009.

The French military moved into Mali on Jan. 11 to push back militants linked to Abou Zeid and other extremist groups who had imposed harsh Islamic rule in the vast country and who were seen as an international terrorist threat. The extremists took control over northern Mali in a power vacuum after a coup last year, and had started moving toward the capital.

France is trying to rally other African troops to help in the military campaign, since Mali`s military is weak and poor. Chadian troops have offered the most robust reinforcement.

For the past 10 days, French military, along with Chadian forces, have been locked in a weeklong battle against extremists in the Adrar des Ifoghas mountains of northern Mali that has left scores dead.

A French presidential aide said the French government would not comment on the Chadian president`s announcement. Earlier, French President Francois Hollande said: "Information is circulating. It is not for me to confirm this, because we need to follow through the operation to the end."

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