News / Africa

Chad: Algeria Hostage Mastermind Dead in Mali

FILE - Undated photo obtained by ANI Mauritanian news agency reportedly shows former Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) emir Mokhtar Belmokhtar speaking at an undisclosed location.
FILE - Undated photo obtained by ANI Mauritanian news agency reportedly shows former Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) emir Mokhtar Belmokhtar speaking at an undisclosed location.
Reuters
Chadian soldiers in Mali have killed Mokhtar Belmokhtar, the al-Qaida commander who masterminded a bloody hostage-taking at an Algerian gas plant in January, Chad's military said on Saturday.

The death of one of the world's most wanted jihadists would be a major blow to al-Qaida in the region and to Islamist rebels already forced to flee towns they had seized in northern Mali by an offensive by French and African troops.

"On Saturday, March 2, at noon, Chadian armed forces operating in northern Mali completely destroyed a terrorist base (...) The toll included several dead terrorists, including their leader Mokhtar Belmokhtar," Chad's armed forces said in a statement read on national television.

This image released on December 25, 2012 by Sahara Media, shows one of the leaders of Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), Abdelhamid Abou Zeid in an undisclosed place.This image released on December 25, 2012 by Sahara Media, shows one of the leaders of Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), Abdelhamid Abou Zeid in an undisclosed place.
x
This image released on December 25, 2012 by Sahara Media, shows one of the leaders of Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), Abdelhamid Abou Zeid in an undisclosed place.
This image released on December 25, 2012 by Sahara Media, shows one of the leaders of Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), Abdelhamid Abou Zeid in an undisclosed place.
On Friday, Chad's President Idriss Deby said his soldiers had killed another al-Qaida commander, Adelhamid Abou Zeid, among 40 militants who died in an operation in the same area as Saturday's assault - Mali's Adrar des Ifoghas mountains near the Algerian border.

France - which has used jet strikes against the militants' mountain hideouts - has declined to confirm the killing of either Abou Zeid or Belmokhtar.

Analysts said the death of two of al-Qaida's most feared commanders in the Sahara desert would mark a significant blow to Mali's Islamist rebellion.

"Both men have extensive knowledge of northern Mali and parts of the broader Sahel and deep social and other connections in northern Mali, and the death of both in such a short amount of time will likely have an impact on militant operations,'' said Andrew Lebovich, a Dakar-based analyst who follows al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).

Anne Giudicelli, managing director of security consultancy Terrorisc, said the al-Qaida commanders' deaths - if confirmed - would temporarily disrupt the Islamist rebel network but would also raise concern over the fate of seven French hostages believed to be held by Islamists in northern Mali.

Chad is one of several African nations that have contributed forces to a French-led military intervention in Mali aimed at ridding its vast northern desert of Islamist rebels who seized the area nearly a year ago following a coup in the capital.

Western and African countries are worried that al-Qaida could use the zone to launch international attacks and strengthen ties with African Islamist groups like al Shabaab in Somalia and Boko Haram in Nigeria.

'Marlboro Man'

Belmokhtar, 40, who lost an eye while fighting in Afghanistan in the 1990s, claimed responsibility for the seizure of dozens of foreign hostages at the In Amenas gas plant in Algeria in January in which more than 60 people were killed.

That attack put Algeria back on the map of global jihad, 20 years after its civil war, a bloody Islamist struggle for power. It also burnished Belmokhtar's jihadi credentials by showing that al-Qaida remained a potent threat to Western interests despite U.S. forces killing Osama bin Laden in Pakistan in 2011.

Before In Amenas, some intelligence experts had assumed Algerian-born Belmokhtar had drifted away from jihad in favor of kidnapping and smuggling weapons and cigarettes in the Sahara where he earned the nickname "Marlboro Man."

In a rare interview with a Mauritanian news service in late 2011, Belmokhtar paid homage to bin Laden and his successor, Ayman al-Zawahri. He cited al-Qaida's traditional global preoccupations, including Iraq, Afghanistan and the fate of the Palestinians, and stressed the need to "attack Western and Jewish economic and military interests."

Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM)

- Formed in the 1990s to fight Algeria's secular government
- Wants to rid North Africa of western influence and impose sharia
- Estimated to have amassed $100 million in kidnapping ransoms
- Most members are from outside Mali
He shared command of field operations for AQIM - al-Qaida's north African franchise - with Abou Zeid, though there was talk the two did not get along and were competing for power.

A former smuggler turned jihadi, Algerian-born Abou Zeid imposed a violent form of sharia, Islamic law, in the ancient desert town of Timbuktu, including amputations and the destruction of ancient Sufi shrines.

Robert Fowler, a former Canadian diplomat held hostage by Belmokhtar in 2008-2009, told Reuters: "While I cannot consider reports of the death of both Abou Zeid and Mokhtar Belmokhtar as anything but good news ... I must temper my enthusiasm by the fact that this is by no means the first time Belmokhtar's death has been reported."

President Francois Hollande said on Friday that the assault to retake Mali's vast desert north from AQIM and other Islamist rebels that began on Jan. 11 was in its final stage and so could not confirm Abou Zeid's death.

A U.S. official and a Western diplomat, however, said the reports about Abou Zeid's death appeared to be credible.

U.S. Representative Ed Royce, Republican chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said the killing of Belmokhtar "would be a hard blow to the collection of jihadists operating across the region that are targeting American diplomats and energy workers."

Washington has said it believes Islamists operating in Mali were involved in the killing of the U.S. ambassador in Libya's eastern city of Benghazi in September.

After its success in dislodging al-Qaida fighters from northern Mali's towns, France and its African allies have faced a mounting wave of suicide bombings and guerrilla-style raids by Islamists in northern Malian towns.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said on Friday that a U.N. peacekeeping force to replace French troops in Mali should be discussed as soon as possible.

Chad was among the quickest to respond to Mali's appeals for help alongside the French, rushing in hundreds of troops experienced in desert warfare, led by President Deby's son, General Mahamat Deby.

President Deby may be hoping to polish his regional and international credentials by assisting in this war, while bolstering his own position in power in Chad which has been threatened in the past by eastern neighbor Sudan.

You May Like

Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unrest

Seen as a potential driver of recovery, Cairo’s plan to expand waterway had been raising hopes to give country much needed economic boost More

Ebola Maternity Ward in Sierra Leone First of its Kind

Country already had one of world's highest maternal mortality rates before Ebola arrived, virus has added even more complications to health care More

Malaysia Flight 370 Disappearance Ruled Accident

Aircraft disappeared on March 8, 2014; with ruling, families of 239 passengers and crew can now seek compensation from airline More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Groundbreaking Hand-Painted Documentary About Van Gogh in Productioni
X
George Putic
January 29, 2015 9:43 PM
The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Groundbreaking Hand-Painted Documentary About Van Gogh in Production

The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Rock-Consuming Organisms Alter Views of Life Processes

Scientists thought they knew much about how life works, until a discovery more than two decades ago challenged conventional beliefs. Scientists found that there are organisms that breathe rocks. And it is only recently that the scientific community is accepting that there are organisms that could get energy out of rocks. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports.
Video

Video Paris Attacks Highlight Global Weapons Black Market

As law enforcement officials piece together how the Paris and Belgian terror cells carried out their recent attacks, questions are being asked about how they obtained military grade assault weapons - which are illegal in the European Union. As VOA's Jeff Swicord reports, experts say there is a very active worldwide black market for these weapons, and criminals and terrorists are buying.
Video

Video Activists Accuse China of Targeting Religious Freedom

The U.S.-based Chinese religious rights group ChinaAid says 2014 was the worst year for religious freedom in China since the end of the Cultural Revolution. As Ye Fan reports, activists say Beijing has been tightening religious controls ever since Chinese leader Xi Jinping came to office. Hu Wei narrates.
Video

Video Super Bowl Ads Compete for Eyes on TV, Web

Super Bowl Sunday (Feb. 1) is about more than just the NFL's American football championship and big parties to watch the game. Viewers also tune in for the world famous commercials that send Facebook and Twitter abuzz. Daniela Schrier reports on the social media rewards for America’s priciest advertising.
Video

Video Theologians Cast Doubt on Morality of Drone Strikes

In 2006, stirred by photos of U.S. soldiers mistreating Iraqi prisoners, a group of American faith leaders and academics launched the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. It played an important role in getting Congress to investigate, and the president to ban, torture. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Freedom on Decline Worldwide, Report Says

The state of global freedom declined for the ninth consecutive year in 2014, according to global watchdog Freedom House's annual report released Wednesday. VOA's William Gallo has more.
Video

Video MRI Seems to Help Diagnose Prostate Cancer, Preliminary Study Shows

Just as with mammography used to detect breast cancer, there's a lot of controversy about tests used to diagnose prostate cancer. Fortunately, a new study shows doctors may now have a more reliable way to diagnose prostate cancer for high risk patients. More from VOA's Carol Pearson.
Video

Video Smartphones About to Make Leap, Carry Basic Senses

Long-distance communication contains mostly sounds and pictures - for now. But scientists in Britain say they are close to creating additions for our smartphones that will make it possible to send taste, smell and even a basic touch. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Former Sudan 'Lost Boy' Becomes Chess Master in NYC

In the mid-1980’s, thousands of Sudanese boys escaped the country's civil war by walking for weeks, then months and finally for more than a year, up to 1,500 kilometers across three countries. The so-called Lost Boys of the Sudan had little time for games. But one of them later mastered the game of chess, and now teaches it to children in the New York area. VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York has his story.
Video

Video NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.
Video

Video Crowded Republican Presidential Field Off to Early Start for 2016

It seems early, but the 2016 U.S. presidential election campaign is already heating up. Though no one has officially announced a candidacy, several potential Republican contenders have been busy speaking to conservative groups about making a White House run next year. Many of the possible contenders are critical of the Obama administration’s foreign policy record. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid