, ALGIERS, Mar 1 – Algeria has carried out DNA tests to try to confirm the reported death of a senior Al-Qaeda figure in fighting in northeastern Mali, El Khabar newspaper reported on Friday.
“The security services are comparing DNA taken from two close relatives of Abu Zeid with samples taken from the remains of a body supplied by French forces” battling Islamists in Mali, it said.
French government spokeswoman Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, meanwhile, said the death of Abdelhamid Abu Zeid, a chief of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, still awaited official confirmation.
“Our forces are engaged in operations which are extremely tough… I think we should be extremely cautious” with such reports, she told France 2 television.
And a source close to French President François Hollande said it was up to the Mali authorities. “We are on Malian territory. It’s up to them to identify persons targeted in military operations,” the source said.
On Thursday, Algeria’s independent Ennahar TV reported that Abu Zeid, 46, whose real name is Mohamed Ghedir, had been killed in northern Mali along with 40 other Islamists.
An Algiers court last year sentenced him in absentia to life in prison for having formed an international armed group implicated in the kidnapping of foreign tourists in 2003.
Five other members of his family were jailed for 10 years each.