DUBAI - Al-Qaida confirmed that one of its top military commanders in North Africa had died in a car accident, according to a statement posted on Sunday on a website used by Islamists.

An Algerian security official said last week that Nabil Sahrawi, an Algerian national who was a military commander of AQIM in the Sahara desert, died in a car accident in northern Mali last week.

"With hearts full of acceptance of God's will, we have received news of the martyrdom of one of our heroes ... Nabil Abu Olqoma, the deputy emir of the Sahara region, as a result of a tragic traffic accident," the group said, adding a number of fighters were also injured.

It said Sahrawi, who it also identified as Nabil al-Orasi, had been jailed in Algeria and was among the first fighters to join the group in the Sahara as a young man in the 1990s.

Abu Olqoma had served as deputy to Abdelhamid Abu Zeid, one of AQIM's leading field commanders in the Sahara desert. Abu Zeid is believed by security experts to have ordered the killing of two foreigners kidnapped by his group, Frenchman Michel Germaneau and Briton Edwin Dyer.

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