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Website: al-Qaida branch replaces commanders

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ROBBIE COREY-BOULET | September 23, 2013 07:02 PM EST | AP

DAKAR, Senegal — Al-Qaida's North Africa branch has replaced two commanders killed during France's intervention in northern Mali earlier this year, including the head of one of its most violent brigades who was known for his brutality and involvement in high-profile hostage-taking, a Mauritanian news agency reported Monday.

The ANI website, which has previously been used as a publicity tool by al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, or AQIM, reported that "knowledgeable sources" had said Algerian Saeed Abu Muqatil would replace Abou Zeid, one of two main al-Qaida commanders operating in northern Mali before France's military intervention earlier this year.

Abou Zeid, responsible for the deaths of at least two European hostages, was killed in fighting with French and Chadian troops in February.

The website also said Mauritanian Aderrahmane would replace Muhammad al-Ameen Ould al-Hasan, who was also killed during the French-led intervention. Aderrahmane was involved in controlling the city of Timbuktu after northern Mali fell to Islamist extremists following a March 2012 military coup.