Al Qaeda kingpin 'killed in Mali'

Leading al Qaeda commander Mokhtar Belmokhtar, thought to be behind January's hostage crisis in Algeria, has been killed in Mali, according to Chadian forces. Foreign Secretary William Hague said if true, his death would be a "blow to terrorism".

Hague: Belmokhtar death would be 'blow to terrorism'

Foreign Secretary William Hague said the death of Mokhtar Belmokhtar would be a “blow to terrorism” but was unable to confirm reports that the al Qaeda commander had been killed in the north of Mali.

He told BBC's Andrew Marr: "It doesn't mean the problems of Mali would be at an end, there's a lot to do to promote a political process in Mali, elections, legitimate government and so on."

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Belmokhtar claimed kidnappings in Algeria oil field

French officials said they could not confirm Mokhtar Belmokhtar's killing. Credit: REUTERS/Sahara Media via Reuters TV

Mokhtar 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 Chadian claims of his death comes days after Chad's President Idriss Deby said soldiers in Mali had killed another leading al Qaeda commander in the Sahara, Adelhamid Abou Zeid.

French officials said they could not confirm the killing of either Abou Zeid or Belmokhtar.

Chadian forces claim to have killed 'The Uncatchable'

The death of leading al Qaeda commander Mokhtar Belmokhtar would bring to an end an exhaustive manhunt for a militant branded "The Uncatchable" by the French intelligence.

  • Belmokhtar, who Chadian forces claim to have killed in northern Mali, is a one-eyed veteran Islamist guerrilla and smuggler, dubbed "Mr Marlboro" for his illicit cigarette empire.
  • He was named by Algerian officials as the man behind January's oil field kidnapping.
  • Belmokhtar has been linked to multiple kidnappings of foreigners in North Africa in the last decade, including the taking of 32 European tourists in 2003.
  • An Algerian court sentenced Belmokhtar in absentia to a life sentence for his role in the killing of 10 Algerian custom agents in 2007.
  • It was claimed he orchestrated January's kidnappings in Algeria, but from a distance, with him based in the rebel-held town of Gao in northern Mali.
  • Only last year, Algerian media reports of his death in violence in Gao in northern Mali proved unfounded, only expanding his elusive status.

Read: A fuller profile on Mokhtar Belmokhtar.

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Chadian general claims army killed Belmokhtar

A spokesman for the Chadian Army has said on national television their forces have killed Mokhtar Belmokhtar in Mali.

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.

– General Zacharia Gobongu, Chadian Army