Ajdabiya, Libya (BBN)-A top Islamist militant who ordered a deadly attack on an Algerian gas plant two years ago has been killed in a US air strike in Libya, officials say.
Mokhtar Belmokhtar and other fighters were killed in the raid by aircraft in the eastern city of Ajdabiya, a statement from Libya’s government said, reports BBC.
The US has confirmed Belmokhtar was targeted but did not say he had died.
The Pentagon described the strike as successful and that officials were still assessing its results.
It would “provide more details as appropriate” said spokesman Colonel Steve Warren.
There have been incorrect reports of Belmokhtar’s death in the past.
Born in Algeria, Belmokhtar was a former senior figure in al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), but left to form his own militia.
He gained notoriety with the attack on the In Amenas gas plant in Algeria in 2013, when about 800 people were taken hostage and 40 killed, most of them foreigners, including six Britons and three Americans.
The US has filed terror charges against him and officials said they believed he remained a threat to Western interests.
“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 Col Warren.
The Libyan government said the strike came after consultation with the US. Their statement said it resulted in the death of the “terrorist Belmokhtar”.
Libya has been in chaos since the ousting of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.
Its internationally recognised parliament is operating in exile in the eastern port of Tobruk.
A rival parliament, the Islamist-dominated General National Congress, is nearly 1,000km (620 miles) to the west in Tripoli.
Rival militia have been battling to fill the power vacuum, with Islamic State militants battling other Islamists in the east.
PROFILE: MOKHTAR BELMOKHTAR
Known as “the One-Eyed”, as he often wore an eye patch, also as “Mr Marlboro”, as he used cigarette smuggling to finance his jihad
Fought against Soviet forces in Afghanistan in the late 1980s
A former leading figure in al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), but left after falling out with its leaders
Went on to lead the Islamist militia group al-Murabitoun, which has attacked local and international forces in Mali