France's top military officer says it is "probable" that a top commander in al-Qaida's North African branch was killed in northern Mali last week.
Admiral Edouard Guillaud, the head of France's joint chiefs of staff, said the killing of Abdelhamid Abou Zeid cannot be confirmed because his body has not been recovered.
He told Europe-1 radio Monday that it would be "good news" if Abou Zeid is dead.
The nation of Chad said Friday that its troops in northern Mali had killed Abou Zeid, a leader of al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb linked to the kidnapping of several Westerners.
French and Algerian news reports said authorities are trying to match DNA from Abou Zeid's relatives to what is believed to be the militant's body.
Chad says its forces have also killed Mokhtar Belmokhtar, the al-Qaida-linked militant who claimed responsibility for the deadly siege at an Algerian natural gas plant in January.
An army statement said Belmokhtar was killed Saturday when Chadian soldiers overran a militant base in the mountains of northern Mali near the Algerian border. The killing has not been independently verified.
Chadian forces are assisting in the French-led offensive to drive Islamist militants out of northern Mali.
Meanwhile, British Foreign Secretary William Hague is in Mali for meetings with the country's president, prime minister and foreign minister.
Hague arrived Monday in the West African country. He is also due to meet with the commander of the African-led force and the deputy commander of a European mission to train Malian troops.