US F-15s, guided bombs, drones targeted extremist leader Mokhtar Belmokhtar

A file photograph taken on Jan 17, 2013, 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
A file photograph taken on Jan 17, 2013, 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) - The United States deployed two F-15 fighter jets equipped with guided bombs, along with spotter drones, to try to kill one-eyed Islamist leader Mokhtar Belmokhtar.

Pentagon spokesman Colonel Steve Warren said the F-15E Strike Eagles were armed with precision 230-kg bombs as they attacked a target in eastern Libya.

Libya's internationally-recognised government confirmed the death of the Al-Qaeda-linked fighter, who allegedly masterminded the siege of an Algerian gas plant in which 38 hostages died.

The Pentagon would only say he was the target, but would not confirm he had been killed. His death has often been reported in the past.

The US military used the fighter jets and smart bombs because they were targeting a "hard structure," Warren explained.

A defence official said no US troops were on the ground at the time of the attack.

"The initial assessment is that it was a successful strike, but we are not prepared to confirm that because we have not finalized the assessment," said Warren, noting Washington had "consulted" with Tripoli before the strike.

The defence official added: "We need to confirm that Belmokthar was in the building as we believed he was."

Belmokhtar, nicknamed variously as "The Uncatchable", "Mr Marlboro" and "The One-Eyed", was leader of the North African Al-Murabitoun militant group and a former chief of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.

Libya's Lana news agency cited an official from the internationally recognized government as saying the strikes targeted a farm south of Ajdabiya, some 160 km southwest of Benghazi.

Belmokhtar was meeting leaders from other extremist groups including Ansar al-Sharia, listed by Washington as a "terrorist" organisation, it added.

But the Pentagon declined to confirm who was in the targeted building.