Monday, 4 March 2013

Two top North African terrorist leaders killed in north Mali

Mokhtar Belmokhtar, one of two Islamist leaders killed this weekend // Source: almustaqbal.com
The two top leaders of the Islamist militant insurgency in North Africa, Mokhtar Belmokhtar and Abdelhamid Abu Zeid, were killed over the weekend by a contingent of Chad soldiers, which are part of the African coalition forces fighting Islamist militants in north Mali. The two Islamist leaders were killed in fighting in the rugged Adrar des Ifoghas mountain range of northeastern Mali, where the Islamists, who had controlled north Mali since April 2012, have escaped after France began its military campaign against them in mid-January.

The high military command of Chad on Saturday announced that Chadian soldiers in Mali had killed Mokhtar Belmokhtar, who planned and organized the deadly attack on an Algerian gas drilling plant. The seizure was ended when the Algerian military stormed the plant. In all, 37 and 30 Islamist militants were killed. “Today, Saturday, at noon, Chadian armed forces on mission in Mali totally destroyed the principal base of the terrorists and narcotraffickers in the Ifoghas mountain range,” Chad’s military spokesman, Gen. Zakaria Ngobongue, said on Chad national television. He said several terrorists, “including the chief, Mokhtar Belmokhtar,” had been killed in the operation.

The New York Times reports that soldiers from Chad are part of An African military force, organized by the African Union to help the Mali government chase Islamist militants out of the northern part of Mali, where these Islamists were in control since April 2012.

Le Point reports that on Friday Chad announced that its soldiers in Mali had killed another militant leader, Abdelhamid Abu Zeid, regarded as the leading commander in Al Qaeda’s regional franchise, in combat in Mali. El Khabar, an Algerian newspaper, reported that DNA samples from the body had been sent to Algeria for verification. Abu Zeid was an Algerian citizen and his relatives still live in the country.

Belmokhtar, who was in early 40s, was born in Algeria. Western intelligence services considered him to be an effective organizer of terrorist network who paid special attention to using the kidnapping of Western citizens and holding them for ransom as a way to finance terrorist activities throughout the Sahel, a vast, largely empty, desert terrain on the southern reaches of the Sahara desert. The western part of the Sahel, running through Niger, Mali, and Mauritania, has become a new haven for al Qaeda and organizations affiliated with it.

France sent its forces to Mali in mid-January, after the Islamists began to advance toward to Mali capital in an effort to take over the entire country. Under the relentless air and ground attacks by the French military, the Islamists abandoned to big cities of north Mali and fled to the rugged Adrar des Ifoghas mountain range of northeastern Mali. The AU coalition forces, aided by the French, have been pursuing the Islamist militants into the mountains, and it was during fighting there that the Chad contingent killed both Belmokhtar and Abu Zeid.

Culled from Homeland Security NewsWire

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