"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," Chad's armed forces said in a statement read on national television. Belmokhtar claimed responsibility for the seizure of dozens of foreign hostages at the In Amenas gas plant in Algeria in January in which more than 60 people were killed. The French military, which is leading the offensive in northern Mali, has so far said it cannot confirm the information.
The purported death of Belmoktar comes a day after Chad's president said their troops killed Abou Zeid, the other main al-Qaeda commander in the region, a claim the French also said they could not confirm. Algeria's El Khabar newspaper said on Saturday that Algerian security services, who were the first to report Abou Zeid's death, had found his personal weapon and examined a body believed to be his. "Confirmation of Abou Zeid's death remains linked to the results of DNA tests done on Thursday by Algeria on two members of his family," it said. Analysts said the death of the two commanders would mark a significant blow to the rebellion in Mali. "Both men have extensive knowledge of northern Mali and parts of the broader Sahel and deep social and other connections in northern Mali, and the death of both in such a short amount of time will likely have an impact on militant operations," Andrew Lebovich, a Dakar-based analyst who follows al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), told Reuters.
If the reports prove true, that's two key jihadist leaders in two days. Of course we've seen how many times some Taliban leaders were reported to be killed. At least in this case there are troops on the scene rather than drones in the air to help verify the identities.
What I find most significant is that it was Chadian forces that did the deed. Africans solving an African problem. The French are there to plan, direct and support. They are also using the Tuaregs of MNLA for intelligence, reconnaissance and guides for the Chadian and French forces. We should be studying this campaign in our military schools.