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Uncertainty emerges over AQIM deaths

March 5, 2013 at 9:32 AM

WASHINGTON, March 5 (UPI) -- The U.S. State Department said it was unable to confirm reports that al-Qaida leaders were killed by French or Chadian forces in Mali.

U.S. State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell said Washington wasn't able to verify reports that al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb leader Mokhtar Belmokhtar and Malian AQIM leader Abou Zeid were killed in military operations in Mali.

A reporter from Radio France International visited Mali last weekend and returned with the image of a slain militant taken from the cell phone of a Chadian soldier. It was unclear if the image was of Belmokhtar or Zeid, however.

French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said Monday there was "no proof of death" of either al-Qaida leaders, France 24 reports.

The U.S. and British militaries are providing logistical support for a French intervention in Mali. The Malian government in January called for military support from former colonial power France to help tackle militants from the north.

Control over northern Mali was lost to al-Qaida and foreign fighters in a 2012 coup.

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