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Abdelhamid Abou Zeid
Abdelhamid Abou Zeid, one of the leaders of AQIM.
Abdelhamid Abou Zeid, one of the leaders of AQIM.
Born 1965
Died February 25, 2013 (aged 47–48)
Other names Emir of the South; Mosab Abdelouadoud[1]
Religion Islam (Salafism)
Military career
Allegiance Al-Qaeda
Service/branch AQIM
Years of service ?-2013
Rank Governor(Emir) of Timbuktu

Insurgency in the Maghreb

Abdelhamid Abou Zeid (born Mohamed Ghadir;[lower-alpha 1] 1965 – 25 February 2013) was an Algerian national and Islamist jihadi militant and smuggler who, in about 2010, became one of the top three military commanders of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), a Mali-based militant organization.[2][3][4][5] He competed as the chief rival of Mokhtar Belmokhtar, an Algerian national who had become the major commander in AQIM and later head of his own group.[6] Both gained wealth and power by kidnapping and ransoming European nationals. After taking control of Timbuktu in 2012, Abou Zeid established sharia law and destroyed Sufi shrines.

Abou Zeid was killed by French and Chadian troops on 25 February 2013 in fighting in Northern Mali.[7] On 23 March, Zeid's death was "definitively confirmed" by the French president's office.[1]

Early life

Abou Zeid was born in Algeria in 1965.[2]

Militant activities

Abou Zeid was one of the senior members of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, (AQIM), an Islamist militant organization.[8] He had been promoted by the emir of AQIM, Abu Musab Abdel Wadoud (a.k.a. Abdelmalek Droukdel); some commentators speculated that Wadoud wanted to have an alternative to Mokhtar Belmokhtar, an increasingly powerful commander in AQIM also operating in Mali.[9] Abou Zeid is believed to have ordered the executions of hostages, including Edwin Dyer in 2009 and Michel Germaneau in 2010.[10] He is believed to have been behind the kidnapping of more than 20 Westerners between 2008 and 2013. The victims were held to gain ransoms to fund the activities of AQIM.[2] When Abou Zeid controlled Timbuktu, he ordered amputations as punishment, and his forces destroyed historic Sufi shrines.[11]

With both Abou Zeid and Belmokhtar exerting power in the Sahel region, in the fall of 2012, Wadoud appointed Djamel Okacha (also known as Yahya Abou el-Hammam) as the overall commander of AQIM in the Sahara, in an effort to keep control. According to a memo from him to Abou Zeid found in Timbuktu, Wadoud was concerned that the rapid push to establish Sharia law would provoke armed intervention. In January 2013, France and West African nations responded to the Malian government's request for help and entered with troops in northern Mali to dislodge AQIM.[2][12][13] Leading a contingent of Islamists in central Mali, Abou Zeid attacked the small town of Diabaly in January 2013.[14][15]

At the request of the Malian government, the French launched a quick intervention in January to drive the radical Islamists from northern Mali. They entered the area with 1,200 French troops, 800 Chadian soldiers and some elements of the Malian army, fighting in the Adrar mountain range.[2]


Abou Zeid was reported killed along with 40 militants on 25 February 2013, by French and Chadian troops near the mountainous region of Tigargara, Northern Mali.[7][10] At the time, he and his men were believed to be holding at least four French citizens who had been kidnapped in 2010 in Niger.[11] His death was first reported by Algeria's independent Ennahar TV on 28 February 2013.[16] On 1 March 2013, Idriss Deby, President of Chad, said his forces had killed Abou Zeid during fighting in northern Mali.[17][18] His death was confirmed by an Al Qaeda member on 5 March.[16][19] According to a Reuters security source, he was replaced as AQIM's leader by Algerian Djamel Okacha (a.k.a. Yahya Abu al-Humam).[20]

On 16 June 2013, AQIM officially confirmed the death of Abou Zeid in a martyrdom statement.[21]


  1. The Algerian press has raised questions about his legal identity: Abid Hamadou or Mohamed Ghedir[1]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 "France confirms death of Al-Qaida chief Abou Zeid". 23 March 2013. Archived from the original on 24 March 2013. Retrieved 24 March 2013. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 Chikhi, Lamine (28 February 2013). "Al Qaeda commander Abou Zeid killed in Mali – Algeria's Ennahar TV". Retrieved 1 March 2013. 
  3. Lindsey Hilsum (20 October 2010). "Has France killed a top al-Qaeda commander in Mali?". Retrieved 28 February 2013. 
  4. "France says al Qaeda chief Abou Zeid "probably" killed". Reuters. 4 March 2013. 
  5. Cheick Diouara (1 March 2013). "Abou Zeid killed? Local Malians say it happened, but French not so sure". Retrieved 24 May 2014. 
  6. "In Amenas attack magnifies Belmokhtar, AQIM rift". 7 February 2013. Retrieved 28 February 2013. 
  7. 7.0 7.1 "Un chef d'AQMI tué par l'armée française au Mali". 28 February 2013. Retrieved 28 February 2013. 
  8. "Chad President Deby: Al Qaeda's Abou Zeid killed in Mali". 2 March 2013. Retrieved 5 March 2013. 
  9. Filiu, Jean Pierre (June 2010). "Could Al-Qaeda Turn African in the Sahel?". Retrieved 17 January 2013. 
  10. 10.0 10.1 "Abdelhamid Abu Zeid, Al Qaeda Commander, Reportedly Killed In Mali". 28 February 2013. Retrieved 28 February 2013. 
  11. 11.0 11.1 Cheick Diouara (1 March 2013). "Abou Zeid killed: Mali locals say al-Qaida commander dead". Retrieved 1 March 2013. 
  12. Tim Lister and Paul Cruickshank (26 January 2013). "Al Qaeda reported to suffer double blow in Sahara". Retrieved 6 March 2013. 
  13. Hinshaw, Drew (1 March 2013). "Chad Claims Killing of al Qaeda Commander". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 6 March 2013. 
  14. Cody, Edward (20 October 2010). "'Emir of the south' Abu Zeid poised to take over al-Qaeda in NW Africa". Retrieved 18 January 2013. 
  15. "Algerian hostage crisis raises the stakes in Mali". 18 January 2013. Retrieved 18 January 2013. 
  16. 16.0 16.1 "Al Qaeda leader Abou Zeid 'killed in Mali'". 5 March 2013. Retrieved 5 March 2013. 
  17. "Chad Says Forces Killed Top Al-Qaida Commander". Retrieved 1 March 2013. 
  18. "Conflicting accounts emerge over AQIM leader's reported death". 3 March 2013. Retrieved 5 March 2013. 
  19. "Al Qaeda confirms Abou Zeid killed in Mali". Nouakchott. 4 March 2013. Retrieved 10 March 2013. 
  20. Chikhi, Lamine (24 March 2013). "Algerian Okacha replaces Abou Zeid as Qaeda-linked group's leader". Retrieved 24 March 2013. 
  21. "Abou Zeid Dead: AQIM Confirms Death Of Al Qaeda Leader". Huffington Post. 16 June 2013. Retrieved 19 June 2014. 

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