By Julian Pecquet - 02/28/13 09:42 PM EST
French air strikes in Mali have killed a top leader of al Qaeda's north African cell, the French daily Le Monde is reporting.
Abdelhamid Abu Zeid, known as the “emir of the south,” was killed along with 43 other militants “in the last few days,” the newspaper reports. He has been accused of kidnapping Westerners to raise money to buy arms, including four French nationals in neighboring Niger who remained in the group's captivity at the time of the strikes.
France intervened in northern Mali last month to prevent Islamist militants from taking over the rest of the country. The Obama administration has supported the offensive by providing intelligence and aerial refueling and transportation.