France says checking DNA to see if top Mali Islamists dead

France is carrying out DNA tests to determine whether top Islamist militant leaders were among those killed in recent fighting in Mali, Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said on Thursday.

"We know that there were a fair number of leaders among the several hundred terrorists killed" in recent days, Fabius said on RTL radio.

"Very precise DNA tests must be carried out to determine their identities, which military services are currently doing," he said.

French authorities are seeking to confirm reports from Chad of the killings in Mali of two top Islamist rebels, Mokhtar Belmokhtar and Abdelhamid Abou Zeid.

An Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) source on Monday confirmed Abou Zeid's death but insisted that Belmokhtar was still alive and fighting.

French President Francois Hollande said Wednesday that "terrorist kingpins have been destroyed" in Mali but did not make it clear if Belmokhtar, the mastermind of the January assault on an Algerian gas plant that left 37 foreign hostages dead, was among them.