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AQIM Reportedly Confirms Commander's Death in Mali

Travelers driving from Niamey, Niger, lining up to be searched at the entrance of Gao, northern Mali, Feb. 12, 2013.
The militant group al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb is reported to have confirmed the death of one of its top commanders.

The Mauritanian news agency ANI says it received a statement from the militant group, saying that Abdelhamid Abou Zeid was killed while fighting French and Chadian troops in northern Mali. The statement says other jihadists also were killed in the clash, including another al-Qaida leader, Abdullah Al Chinghitty.

Chad and France announced Abou Zeid's death in March after the fighting in Mali's Ifoghas mountains, but there had been no direct confirmation from al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb until Sunday.

The Algerian-born Abou Zeid was known for his involvement in kidnapping European hostages in Africa's Sahel region. He was linked to the executions of British tourist Edwin Dyer in 2009 and French aid worker Michel Germaneau the following year.

Ransom money from the kidnappings helped to fund the al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, which played a key role in the takeover of northern Mali by Islamist militants last year.

Abou Zeid's battalion of fighters was known to be one of the most radical in the al-Qaida group.

French forces led an offensive beginning in January that drove the militants from power in northern Mali.