Chadian troops are fighting Islamist militants in Mali as part of an international force led by France.

Belmokhtar’s death will be a major blow to Islamist rebels in northern Mali who have been pushed into their mountain strongholds by the French and African forces.

The terrorist leader was an influential figurehead for the rebels and is said to have masterminded the attack at a gas plant in Algeria that led to the hostage crisis in January which claimed the lives of six Britons.

A total of 37 foreign workers died at the remote oil facility – part-operated by BP – which was overrun by heavily-armed terrorists on Wednesday January 16.