PARIS (Reuters) - France said on Saturday it could confirm "with certainty" that Abdelhamid Abou Zeid, one of al Qaeda's most feared commanders in Africa, had been killed in Mali in February as part of a French-led military offensive.
The death of Abou Zeid, accused of earning al Qaeda millions of dollars through the kidnappings of dozens of Western hostages, marks a serious blow to al Qaeda in the region and to Islamist rebels driven out of northern Mali's towns by the French-led campaign.
France has until now only said Abou Zeid was "probably" dead after its closest ally in the region, Chad, said at the beginning of March the Algerian smuggler-turned-Islamist had been killed.
France had been awaiting results of DNA testing before making an official announcement, a diplomatic source told Reuters.
"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 (mountains) in the North of Mali, at the end of February," the Elysee presidential palace said.
(Reporting by Lionel Laurent and Elizabeth Pineau; Editing by Sophie Hares)