Al-Qaeda leader Mokhtar Belmokhtar "killed in Mali" as Chadian armed forces destroy terrorist base

Al-Qaeda leader Mokhtar Belmokhtar 'killed in Mali' as Chadian armed forces destroy terrorist base
Belmokhtar is believed to be among several rebels killed when Chadian armed forces 'completely destroyed' a terrorist base in northern Mali One-eyed terror chief said to be behind the Algeria hostage crisis in JanuaryA total of 37 workers were killed at an oil facility – including six Britons

for acts of terrorism.

It is believed Belmokhtar first became interested in jihad as a schoolboy before travelling to Afghanistan to support the mujahadeen fighting in the Civil War.

He later joined the Islamist GIA fighting in the Algerian Civil War where he lost his left eye while mishandling explosives.

His reputation as a 'gangster-jihadist'
involved in arms and cigarette smuggling earned him the nickname 'Mister
Malboro' among locals in the Sahara.

Belmokhtar then became a commander in the Mali-based Islamist Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb before heading his own Islamist organisation, dubbed the Al-Mulathameen or Masked Brigade.

It was this group that claimed responsibility for the Algeria gas plant attack.

Ordeal: The Statoil run gas field in Algeria, which was targeted by Al Qaeda linked extremists

Ordeal: The Statoil run gas field in Algeria, which was targeted by Al Qaeda linked extremists led by Mokhtar Belmokhtar in January

Terror: Hostages are seen with their hands in the air at the In Amenas gas facility

Terror: Hostages are seen with their hands in the air at the In Amenas gas facility

A still image broadcast today by Algeria's Ennahar TV shows hostages surrendering to Islamist gunmen who overtook a gas facility

In fear of their lives: Hostages put their hands up, in dramatic footage of their ordeal broadcast on Algerian TV

Victim: Sebastian John, pictured left, was one of six British workers killed in the Algeria hostage crisis in January

Victim: Sebastian John, pictured left, was one of six British workers killed in the Algeria hostage crisis in January

In a chilling video message filmed at the height of the crisis, Belmoktar said: 'We in Al Qaeda announce this blessed operation.

ONE-EYED TERROR CHIEF HIRED 3FT 6IN EXECUTIONER 'TO BEHEAD DOZENS OF WOMEN AND CHILDREN'

The ruthless Al-Qaeda kingpin behind the Algerian hostage crisis, Mokhtar
Belmokhtar, is said to have once employed a 3ft 6ins-tall killer named
'Mohamed the Dwarf' during a terror campaign in the 1990s.

One-eyed
fanatic Belmokhtar, 40, who has a son named after Osama bin Laden,
reportedly used the axe-wielding dwarf to slit the throats of 31 victims
and behead them in public in the 1990s.

At the time Belmokhtar
was a commander in the Armed Islamic Group of Algeria, known as the
GIA, and used the dwarf as part of his failed campaign to impose a
strict Islamic government in Algeria.

Hundreds
of executions are believed to have been carried out by the axe-wielding
dwarf who murdered men, women and children after dthey had been dragged
from their beds.

The dwarf and 50 heavily-armed extremists once dragged entire families into the street and forced them to line up for execution.

A
survivor said: 'No one was allowed to speak as they were dragged out
into a back street. Then the victims were made to stand in a queue to be
killed.

'At the head of the line was a dwarf, wearing a canvas hood and a scarf covering his face.

'He had a large knife in one hand and an axe in the other.

'As people were brought forward he slit their throats then chopped off their heads with the axe.'

The carnage then continued until an army patrol arrived and the terrorists fled.

In
another massacre, the dwarf is said to have hacked the heads of 86
people in a single night. There are no reports of the tiny butcher ever
having been caught.

'We are ready to negotiate with the West and the Algerian government provided they stop their bombing of Mali's Muslims.'

The latest clash comes just one day after reports that another senior Al-Qaeda member was killed in Northern Mali.

Abdelhamid Abou Zeid, a senior commander in Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), was killed among 40 other Islamist fighters four days ago in the foothills of the Adrar des Ifoghas mountains.

Speaking on Friday, Chadian President
Idriss Deby said his forces 'killed two jihadi leaders, including Abou
Zeid,' but did not give any further details.

Algerian national Abdelhamid Abou Zeid, whose real name was Mohamed Ghadir, was one of the top three commanders in AQIM.

The former smuggler turned jihadist is
believed to be behind the kidnapping of more than 20 Westerners in the area over the last five years, and is thought have executed British national Edwin Dyer in 2009.

French and Chadian troops have been hunting AQIM fighters in the mountains on the border to Algeria after a lightning campaign to dislodge them from northern Mali.

France's
Elysee presidential palace has declined to comment on the AQIM leader,
but a French army official confirmed that about 40 Islamists had been
killed in heavy fighting over the last week in the mountainous Tigargara
region.

The official said 1,200 French
troops, 800 Chadian soldiers and some elements of the Malian army were
still in combat to the south of Tessalit in the Adrar mountain range.

Ten logistics sites and an explosives factory had been destroyed in the operation as well as 16 vehicles, she said.

France launched the assault to retake
Mali's vast desert north from AQIM and other Islamist rebels after a
plea from Mali's government to halt the militants' drive southward.

The
intervention swiftly dislodged rebels from northern Mali's main towns
and drove them back into the surrounding desert and mountains,
particularly the Adrar des Ifoghas.

Serious blow: Abou Zeid, one of the leaders of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), was killed by French and Chadian troops in the mountains in northern Mali

Serious blow: Abou Zeid, one of the leaders of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), was killed by French and Chadian troops in the mountains in northern Mali

Abou Zeid was among 40 militants killed three days ago in the foothills of the Adrar des Ifoghas mountains, pictured, Algerian television reported

Confirmed: Abou Zeid was among 40 militants killed four days ago in the foothills of the Adrar des Ifoghas mountains, pictured, the president of Chad said

Alleged murder: Abou Zeid is said to have been the one to execute British hostage Edwin Dyer in 2009

Alleged murder: Abou Zeid is said to have been the one to execute British hostage Edwin Dyer in 2009

AN ISLAMIC MILITANCY CAREER SPANNING TWO DECADES Mokhtar Belmokhtar was born in Ghardaia, Algeria, in 1972 and became interested in Jihad as a teenagerHe travelled at the age of 19 to Afghanistan where he gained training and combat experience before returning to Algeria in 1992Belmokhtar then joined Algeria's Islamic Armed Group (GIA) in the country's civil war when he lost one eyeHe helped found the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC), which extended its attacks against security forces into countries along the southern fringe of the SaharaThe GSPC later took up the franchise of Al-Qaeda's North Africa wing, under the name Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) Belmokhtar headed one of two AQIM battalions in Algeria's southern desert bordering MaliBelmokhtar was sentenced by an Algerian court to life imprisonment in absentia in connection with the killing of 10 Algerian customs agents in 2007His reputation as a 'gangster-jihadist' involved in arms and cigarette smuggling earned him the nickname 'Mister Malboro' among locals in the SaharaBelmokhtar's Mulathameen group claimed responsibility for the capture of Algeria's In Amenas gas plant, jointly-owned by BP, Statoil and Algeria's state energy company Sonatrach, in JanuaryHis career of Islamic militancy spanned two decades