Chadian soldiers stand in front of their armoured vehicles as they prepare to leave a military camp on the outskirts of Niamey on January 24, 2013, on their way to Mali. Chad's president said on March 1, 2013, that it was Chadian soldiers who killed Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb's leader Abu Zeid.
Credit: AFP

Chadian President Idriss Deby Itno said on Friday that it was Chadian troops who killed Abu Zeid, one of the main leaders of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.

According to Agence France Presse, Deby said the troops had clashed with jihadists in the Kidal region and "our soldiers killed two jihadist chiefs including Abu Zeid."

Algerian security forces have reportedly taken DNA samples from Zeid's relatives to compare with the body that is allegedly his, said the BBC.

A US official, speaking anonymously, told AFP that Washington thought the reports of Abu Zeid's death were "very credible."

Sources close to Islamist militants in northern Mali also confirmed there was no doubt Abu Zeid had been killed. Reports emerging on Thursday claimed that Zeid was killed by French airstrikes, and the sources cited by Reuters corroborated that version of events.

"The death of Abou Zeid has been confirmed by several of his supporters who have come back from the mountains," said Ibrahim Oumar Toure, a mechanic in Kidal who worked with Islamist rebels, according to Reuters.

French government spokeswoman Najat Vallaud-Belkacem said she could neither confirm nor deny the report, while an official for the MNLA Tuareg rebel group said there was no evidence proving Zeid's death.

More on GlobalPost: Leader of Al Qaeda in Islamic Maghreb reported killed in Mali airstrike

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