France confirms death of al Qaeda head in Mali
Washington: France has confirmed that the al Qaeda-linked warlord Abou Zeid has been killed in combat with French-led troops in Mali in February.
Zeid`s death has ended weeks of uncertainty about whether one of the group`s leading commanders in the region was dead.
In a statement on Saturday the office of French President Francois Hollande said the death was `definitively confirmed` and that the killing `marked an important step in the fight against terrorism in the Sahel,` CBS News reports.
According to the report, Chad`s president had earlier this month said that Chadian troops killed Abou Zeid while fighting to dislodge his al Qaeda affiliate in northern Mali.
French officials have maintained for weeks that the Algerian was `probably` dead, but waited to conduct DNA tests to verify.
Abdelhamid Abou Zeid, thought to be 47, was a pillar of the southern realm of al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, or AQIM, responsible for the death of at least two European hostages and a leader of the extremist takeover of the north, the report said.
The French military moved into Mali on Jan. 11 to push back militants linked to him and others who had imposed harsh Islamic rule and who are seen as an international terrorist threat, it added.
Abou Zeid was killed in operations in the Adrar des Ifoghas mountains in northern Mali in late February, the statement from Hollande`s office said.
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