Algerian security forces have taken DNA samples in attempts to confirm the death of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) leader, Abdelhamid Abou Zeid.
The notorious AQIM chief was reportedlykilled in northern Mali following a French air strike on jihadist positions in the Ifoghas mountains, close to the Algerian border.
High-ranking Algerian security sources revealed the suspected body was too charred to identify.
Authorities have taken DNA samples from two members of Abou Zeid’s family in order to corroborate the body.
French forces also announced they had recovered 10 bodies belonging to Algerian militants, believed to be members of Abou Zeid’s Tarek bin Zayed Brigade.
Chadian President Idriss Deby has meanwhile claimed his country’s forces killed two jihadist leaders, including Abou Zeid.
Speaking at a memorial for Chadian soldiers killed in Mali, Deby said clashes with jihadists in the Ifoghas region had brought them “face-to-face” with militants for the first time in the almost two-month conflict.
Chadian and Malian troops encountered militants during a ground operation aimed at recovering the bodies, he claimed.
Political analysts believe French authorities’ silence after reports of Abou Zeid’s death belies a fear of reprisals against French nationals kidnapped last week.
President Francois Hollande meanwhile said his country’s operation in northern Mali had now “entered its final phase,” but declined to mention the Abou Zeid reports.