TribLIVE

| USWorld


 
Larger text Larger text Smaller text Smaller text | Order Photo Reprints

France confirms death of al-Qaida chief in Mali

Daily Photo Galleries

By The Associated Press
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

Most-Read World

  1. Ukraine rejects Russia’s call for cease-fire, warns of ‘great war’ against Russian aggressor
  2. Ex-Libyan PM tasked with forming new government
  3. Dozens in Boko Haram reportedly killed as Nigeria repels attack
  4. Afghan power-sharing deal breaks down
  5. Detained Americans plead U.S. for assistance
  6. Pressure on European Central Bank grows as economic recovery founders
  7. Pakistani premier may be forced out as protests turn violent
  8. Israeli missiles take down tall building in Gaza
  9. Saudi king warns of terrorist threat to Europe, US
  10. EU preps further sanctions on Russia as ‘full-scale war’ looms in Ukraine
  11. Iraqi forces break militant siege of Shiite Turkmen town
Subscribe today! Click here for our subscription offers.