US confirms Algerian militant Mokhtar Belmokhtar was target of Libya air strike

A file photograph taken on Jan 17, 2013, an undated grab from a video obtained by ANI Mauritanian news agency, reportedly shows former Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) emir Mokhtar Belmokhtar speaking at an undisclosed location. -- PHOTO: AFP&n
A file photograph taken on Jan 17, 2013, an undated grab from a video obtained by ANI Mauritanian news agency, reportedly shows former Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) emir Mokhtar Belmokhtar speaking at an undisclosed location. -- PHOTO: AFP 

WASHINGTON (AFP) - Notorious Algerian militant Mokhtar Belmokhtar was the target of a US air strike, the Pentagon said on Sunday, without immediately confirming claims in Libya that he was killed.  

One-eyed Islamist commander Belmokhtar was the leader of the north African Al-Murabitoun militant group and a former chief of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).

Libya’s internationally recognised government said in a statement that the alleged mastermind behind a 2013 siege of an Algerian gas plant in which 38 mostly Western hostages died was killed by American jets “after consultation with the Libyan transitional government.”

Pentagon spokesman Colonel Steve Warren said in a statement: “I can confirm that the target of last night’s counterterrorism strike in Libya was Mokhtar Belmokhtar.  

“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," he said.

“Belmokhtar directed the 2013 attacks at In-Amenas in Algeria that resulted in the deaths of at least 38 individuals from 10 countries, including three Americans, and poses a continuing threat to US persons.  

“The strike was carried out by US aircraft. We are continuing to assess the results of the operation and will provide more details as appropriate.”