A U.S. strike in Libya Sunday may have killed Algerian terrorist Mokhtar Belmokhtar, an al-Qaeda-aligned jihadi who was leading the fight against secular forces in Northern Africa.
The Pentagon revealed Saturday, without many specifics, that the U.S. had carried out a strike against an al-Qaeda-affiliated target in Libya.
On Monday, Pentagon spokesman Col. Steve Warren said of the jihadi fighter, without confirming whether he was killed in the strike, “Belmokhtar has a long history of leading terrorist activities as a member of AQIM, is the operational leader of the al-Qaeda-associated al-Murabitoun organisation in north-west Africa, and maintains his personal allegiance to al-Qaeda,” said Pentagon spokesman Col. Steve Warren.
Belmokhtar, also known as The One-Eyed (because of his blindness in one eye), was the former chief of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). He formed his own al-Qaeda offshoot, al-Mulathameen (The Masked Brigade), in 2012. In late 2013, the Department of State designated the latter group a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO). The U.S. government offered $5 million dollars for information leading to his location.
The internationally recognized government of Libya said of the strike on Sunday, “The Libyan government in the east of Libya confirms that the U.S fighter jets conducted air strikes last night in a mission which resulted in the death of the terrorist Belmokhtar.” But the military spokesman for the Libyan government said Monday that it was too early to tell if Belmokhtar was among the 17 killed in the U.S. strike in Eastern Libya.
This newest report follows many instances in which the jihadi leader was reportedly killed. French forces have called Belmokhtar the “Uncatchable” for his ability to elude his enemies. In 2013, reports surfaced that he was killed while fighting in a jihadi insurgency in Mali, but the report turned out to be false.
Belmokhtar is perhaps most infamous for carrying out a 2013 assault on the Amenas gas field in Algeria, which took the lives of 39 hostages.