One of the top commanders of al Qaeda's north Africa wing, Abdelhamid Abou Zeid, has been killed by French forces. Abou Zeid is believed to have died during a campaign against Islamist fighters in Mali. It is being reported that he was one of 40 militants killed three days ago in the foothills of the Adrar des Ifoghas Mountains. The mountains are near the Algerian border. French and Chadian troops have been hunting fighters there for some time.
Abou Zeid's death has been reported by Ennahar television. Representatives from Francer, Algeria and Mali have all declined to confirm his death. One French army official would only confirm that about 40 Islamists had been killed in heavy fighting in the mountains, according to Yahoo.
She said that 10 logistics sites and an explosives factory had been destroyed in the operation as well as 16 vehicles. She also said that 1,200 French troops, 800 Chadian soldiers and some Malian forces were still engaged in combat.
France began the assault to retake Mali’s desert from al Qaeda and other Islamist forces after Mali’s government pleaded for help. The initial French attacks drove the rebels out of Mali’s main town and up into the mountains.
Abou Zeid is regarded as one of al Qaeda’s most ruthless operators. It is believed that he is behind the kidnappings of more than 20 people over the last five years, earning terrorists tens of millions of dollars in the process. He is also thought to have executed British national Edwin Dyer in 2009 and 78-year-old Frenchman Michel Germaneau in 2010.
Canadian diplomat Robert Fowler was kidnapped by a terrorist cell that Abou Zeid was involved with. He said that the al Qaeda leader refused to give medication to two hostages suffering from dysentery, one of whom had been stung by a scorpion. People who dealt with him said he was a short man with a grey beard and a quiet, severe manner who was never seen without an AK47 rifle.