PARIS/BAMAKO, March 4 (Reuters) - France gave the first indication on Monday that it believed reports that Abdelhamid Abou Zeid, one of al Qaeda's most feared commanders in Africa, had been killed in Mali, an event that would deal a serious blow to the militants' leadership.
Edouard Guillaud, head of France's joint chiefs of staff, said it was probable Abou Zeid had been killed in the Adrar des Ifoghas mountains where French troops are hunting down al Qaeda-linked fighters after a seven-week campaign which has broken Islamist control of northern Mali.
But he remained cautious over reports of the death of another jihadist leader, Mokhtar Belmokhtar.
Abou Zeid is accused of earning al Qaeda millions of dollars through kidnappings, including the abduction of more than 20 Western hostages since 2008. He is believed to have killed British hostage Edwin Dyer in 2009 and 78-year-old Frenchman Michel Germaneau in 2010.