Al Qaeda leader Mokhtar Belmokhtar killed in Mali operation by Chadian troops

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A picture shows a road sign indicating Tiguentourine near In Amenas on a road leading to a gas complex where Islamist gunmen had taken hostages in the desert in Algeria's deep south on January 19, 2013. Islamist gunmen killed seven foreign hostages in Algeria before being gunned down by special forces in a final assault on a remote desert gas complex, state television said, though five members have reportedly been found alive.

Credit:

Farouk Batiche

A day after announcing the killing of Abu Zeid, a chief of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, in a military operation, Chad said its troops had killed another Qaeda leader: Mokhtar Belmokhtar.

France — which has been using air strikes to flush out militants from mountain hideaways — has not confirmed the killing of either Abu Zeid or Belmokhtar.

Belmokhtar, Reuters wrote, was the Qaeda commander who masterminded a bloody hostage-taking at an Algerian gas plant in January.

The news outlet cited a statement from Chad's armed forces describing the operation that killed Belmokhtar:

"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."

Belmokhtar's death was announced on Chadian state television, but has not been confirmed by other sources, the BBC wrote.

The statement read out on Chadian TV said:

"Chadian forces in Mali completely destroyed the main jihadist base in the Adrar de Ifhogas mountains... killing several terrorists including leader Mokhtar Belmokhtar."

The death of one of the world's most wanted jihadists would be a blow to Islamist militants in Mali, who have already been beaten back from strongholds in the country's north in an offensive by French and African troops.

Chad's president, Idriss Deby, said Friday that his troops had killed Abu Zeid, among 40 militants who died. That operation — like Saturday's, which reportedly killed Belmokhtar — took place near the Algerian border.

More from GlobalPost: Chad president confirms Al Qaeda senior militant Abu Zeid's death