French Army Chief: Probable Abou Zeid Dead Though Body Not Recovered
By Inti Landauro
PARIS--The leader of Islamist rebels in northern Mali, Abdelhamid Abou Zeid, is likely dead, but the French army can't
confirm this as his body hasn't been recovered, French Army Chief Admiral Edouard Guillaud said Monday, after the
president of Chad said Friday that Mr. Zeid had been killed.
"It is likely, but it is only likely. We can't have any certainty--it would be good news-- because we didn't recover
the body," Admiral Guillaud said in an interview on the Europe1 radio station Monday.
On whether another Islamist rebel leader, Mokhtar Belmokhtar, who claimed responsibility for a deadly raid on a gas
plant in Algeria in January, has been killed, Admiral Guillaud urged "extreme caution," as "there is always the risk of
being contradicted later by a dated video." He said recent comments on Islamist Internet forums insist that Mr.
Belmokhtar is alive.
On Friday, Chad President Idriss Deby said the two Algeria-born leaders of al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, or AQIM,
had been killed by Chadian soldiers.
Mr. Belmokhtar and Mr. Zeid, who had led operations against Westerners in the Sahara desert, declared their allegiance
to al Qaeda in late 2006. Osama bin Laden repaid that pledge with ample praise for their operation, which he described
as al Qaeda's most profitable.
Both men were in the Adrar Tigharghar, a mountainous area in northern Mali, where French army and its Chadian allies
are pursuing Islamist rebels. Admiral Guillaud said a quarter of the estimated 1,200-1,500 northern Mali Islamist
fighters are currently in that area.
He said the fighting in the mountainous area is the most difficult phase of the military intervention in Mali as the
rebel groups had set up an industrial terrorism organization in the area, including workshops manufacturing bombs and
trenches dug to hide stolen tanks.
Admiral Guillaud said the French army is "breaking the backbone" of AQIM by cutting its supplies of water, fuel and
food and neutralizing its leaders.
Write to Inti Landauro at email@example.com
Corrections & Amplifications
This article was corrected on March 7, 2013 at 12:59 GMT to fix the misstatement that comments from Chad's president
in the fourth paragraph. Idriss Deby had said the two leaders of al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb were killed by Chadian
soldiers, and not by French air strikes.
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