France confirms death of al-Qaida chief in Mali
By The Associated Press
Published: Saturday, March 23, 2013, 9:39 p.m.
PARIS — The death of a top al-Qaida-linked warlord in combat with French-led troops represents a victory in the battle against jihadists who had a stranglehold on northern Mali. But it is far from the defining blow against a wily enemy that can go underground and regroup to renew itself.
Even the fearsome Abou Zeid is replaceable.
A top commander of al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, Abou Zeid had been in the crosshairs of the French military and their African partners since they moved in to Mali on Jan. 11 to rout radicals. An announcement Saturday by the French president's office that Abou Zeid's death in late February has been “definitively confirmed” ends weeks of speculation about his fate.
Abdelhamid Abou Zeid, an Algerian thought to be 47, was a pillar of al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb's southern realm, responsible for the death of at least two European hostages and a leader of the extremist takeover of northern Mali. He joined a succession of radical insurgency movements in Algeria starting in the early 1990s.
President Francois Hollande's office said the death of Abou Zeid “marks an important step in the fight against terrorism in the Sahel,” where the Sahara meets the sub-Saharan jungle, encompassing several nations where radicals are on the rise.
French officials have maintained for weeks that the Abou Zeid was “probably” dead but waited to conduct DNA tests to verify.
But jihadists have shown again and again that they can overcome the death of individual warlords. Even French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian has said that eliminating leaders “doesn't solve everything.”
“It's the entire structure that has to be put down and not this or that leader,” he said in an interview with Le Monde this month.
Al-Qaida rebounded after commanders in Iraq and Afghanistan were killed. Leaders of jihadist movements in Algeria that gave birth to al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb were killed and seamlessly replaced.
The top AQIM leader in Mali, with the title Emir of the Grand Sahara, Nabil Makloufi, was quickly replaced after being killed last fall in a road accident, said Matthieu Guidere, an expert on radical Islam who monitors AQIM and other jihadist movements.
The new top emir, Yahya El-Hammam, could step into Abou Zeid's warlord role, according to one scenario.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Becoming extra wife is fantasy in Kazakhstan
- Egypt strikes a perilous repose
- Study: Afghan copter choice not best
- Protesters rip fences, Chevron’s plans
- Defense Secretary Hagel skips visit with Afghan President Karzai
- Autobahn toll plan attracts backlash
- Taste of free enterprise whets Cubans’ appetite
- Iran presses ahead with uranium
- Sentences reduced for 14 female protesters in Egypt
- Mexico may open up oil production
- Bali summit yields global trade deal