N’DJAMENA, Chad – Chadian President Idriss Deby announced Friday that Chadian troops fighting to dislodge an al-Qaida affiliate in northern Mali killed one of the group’s leading commanders, Abou Zeid.
The death of the Algerian warlord, a feared radical leader of al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb behind the kidnapping of several Westerners, could not immediately be verified. His death would be a big blow to his group and its growing influence in North and West Africa.
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.
Chadian television showed images of Friday’s tribute to the fallen soldiers from Chad.
Abdelhamid Abou Zeid, who led one of the most violent brigades of al-Qaida’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 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.