Abdelhamid Abou Zeid’s death was confirmed by France on Saturday. Zeid was one of al Qaeda’s most feared commanders in Africa. He was killed last month in a French-led offensive in Mali.
Abou Zeid raised millions of dollars by kidnapping Western hostages. His death was a heavy blow to Al Qaeda’s win in North Africa, called AQIM.
Abou Zeid’s death was also a blow to Islamist rebels currently battling French forces in Mali. France confirmed his death “with certainty.” He was a trusted lieutenant of AQIM’s elusive leader, Abdelmalek Droukdel.
The announcement was a major victory for France, who has been waging the campaign in the North African country for nine weeks, alongside several other African countries, including Chad. However, it also raises questions about the fate of several French hostages who were believed to have been held by Abou Zeid.
The Elysee presidential palace confirmed the news, saying, “The president of the French Republic confirms with certainty the death of Abdelhamid Abou Zeid after an offensive by the French army in the Adrar des Ifoghas.”
France initially reported that Abou Zeid was “probably” dead at the beginning of March. But they waited to receive the results of DNA testing before they made an official announcement.
Chadian forces took responsibility for Abou Zeid’s death, saying that they did so while fighting against his al Qaeda affiliate in northern Mali. Abdelhamid Abou Zeid was thought to be 47. He was killed in the Adrar de Ifogha mountains in late February, according to the statement from France’s President François Hollande.
Despite the victory, one analyst predicted that Abou Zeid’s death would not weaken the AQIM significantly. Instead, it could lead to greater unity among his factions. It will likely take a while for the full impact of Abou Zeid’s confirmed death to be known.