The president's office said Abdelhamid Abou Zeid was indeed killed in a clash with Chadian soldiers, who are allied with the French military in countering al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb.
"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 in a written statement.
The statement called Zeid's death "an important stage in the fight against terrorism in the Sahel (region)."
The fate of Mokhtar Belmokhtar, another top al-Qaida operative in Mali was still not clear Saturday, the BBC said Saturday. Chad claimed he was killed in the same operation in which Zeid died.