Chad's president says his forces have killed a feared al-Qaida commander, Abdelhamid Abou Zeid, during fighting in northern Mali.
Unconfirmed reports of Abou Zeid's death began circulating Wednesday, as French and Chadian forces battled Islamist militants in mountains near Mali's border with Algeria.
Details of the killing were unclear late Friday. Speaking in Chad's capital, N'Djamena, President Idriss Deby said his forces killed two jihadist leaders, including Abou Zeid. Earlier Algerian media reports said Abou Zeid and some 40 other people were killed Monday in a French airstrike. Neither French, Malian nor Algerian officials have confirmed Abou Zeid's death.
Algerian and French news reports say DNA samples have been taken from relatives of the military commander, and that authorities were attempting to match the samples with remains found in northern Mali.
The Algerian-born Abou Zeid was one of the leaders of al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, or AQIM, the terrorist group's North African branch.
He has been linked to the kidnapping of many Europeans, which raised millions of dollars in ransom for AQIM's operations.
He is also believed to be behind the execution of British tourist Edwin Dyer in 2009 and French aid worker Michel Germaneau in 2010.
Chadian troops are helping with the French-led offensive to drive Islamist militants out of Mali. On Friday, Mr. Deby took part in a funeral ceremony for 26 killed Chadian soldiers.