Top al-Qaeda Leader Killed in MaliMarch 2, 2013 in Mali
Unconfirmed reports have indicated that top al-Qaeda leader Mokhtar Belmokhtar has been killed by Chadian soldiers in Mali just one day after Chadian President Idris Deby announced that his troops had killed another senior AQIM leader, Abdelhamid Abou Zeid, who was killed in the mountainous region of the country. If both of these deaths are confirmed, then this will be a major success for the allied forces in Mali who are nearing the two month mark of the military intervention. Although these deaths will also be seen as a major blow to the al-Qaeda wing, they will likely result in retaliatory attacks in Mali, as well as in Chad as the country’s troops are responsible for his death.
The Chadian army has claimed that they have killed several militants, including Mokhtar Belmokhtar. Although his death has been announced on Chadian state television, officials in Mali and in France have yet to confirm the reports. A statement that was released by Chadian armed forces spokesman General Zacharia Gobongue indicated that “on Saturday March 2 at noon, Chadian armed forces operating in northern Mali completely destroyed a terrorist base…the toll included several dead terrorists, including their leader Mokhtar Belmokhtar.” During the operation, weapons, equipment and sixty vehicles were also seized.
Mokhtar Belmokhtar is a veteran al-Qaeda leader who is suspected of ordering the January 2013 attack on an Algerian gas plant which resulted in the deaths of thirty-seven hostages. His death comes just one day after reports surfaced that Abou Zeid, the second-in-command of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, was killed in Mali on 22 February in the foothills of the Adrar des Ifoghas mountains. His death is still to be confirmed by DNA evidence.