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Slain AQIM leader a linchpin figure with stomach for violence

Adelhamid Abou Zeid, the Al-Qaeda commander reported to have been killed in Mali, was a linchpin figure in the organisation's North African network. Credited with significantly expanding Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM)'s kidnapping and other activities across the region, Abou Zeid had a reputation for being a severe, aloof character with an unflinching capacity for violence when required. According to several witnesses, he personally cut the throat of Edwin Dyer, the British hostage killed in captivity in 2009 after Britain ruled out paying a ransom to his abductors.

Al-Qaeda's top leader in Mali killed in fighting

Al-Qaeda's top commander in Mali has been killed, Chadian President Idriss Deby Itno said Friday, in what would be one of the most significant blows to the rebels in the seven-week French-led intervention against Islamist insurgents. Several newspapers in Abou Zeid's native Algeria had reported his death and Washington had described the reports as "very credible". Deby said Abou Zeid, the Mali-based operative in Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), was killed in deadly fighting between Chadian troops and Islamist fighters on February 22.

Al-Qaeda's top leader in Mali killed in fighting

Al-Qaeda's top commander in Mali has been killed, Chadian President Idriss Deby Itno said, signalling a significant blow to the rebels in the seven-week French-led intervention against Islamist insurgents. Several newspapers in Abou Zeid's native Algeria had reported his death and Washington had described the reports as "very credible". Deby on Friday said Abou Zeid, the Mali-based operative of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), was killed in fighting between Chadian troops and Islamist fighters on February 22.

US official: Reports Mali Qaeda chief dead 'very credible'

The United States finds reports that one of the most notorious leaders of Al-Qaeda's North African wing has been killed in fighting with French troops "very credible," an official said Friday. Speaking on condition of anonymity because the report has not been formally confirmed, the US official said that if Abdelhamid Abou Zeid was indeed slain in Mali "it would be a significant blow to Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb." "We find the reports very credible," he said.

Mali locals say no doubt Qaeda commander Abou Zeid dead

* Sources in northern Mali say Abou Zeid dead * No official confirmation from Paris * Algerians carrying out DNA tests on members of family- media By Cheick Diouara GAO, Mali March 1 (Reuters) - Sources close to Islamist militants and tribal elders in north Mali said on Friday there was no doubt one of al Qaeda's most feared commanders in Africa had been killed by French air strikes, though there was still no official confirmation.

UPDATE 3-Al Qaeda commander Abou Zeid killed in Mali -Algeria's Ennahar TV

* Algerian TV says AQIM commander, 40 militants killed * French presidency declines to comment * French military official says fighting continues (Adds comment from U.S. official, Canadian diplomat) By Lamine Chikhi and John Irish
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