Libya group de­nies death of al-Qaida-linked Belmokhtar

The China Post - - INTERNATIONAL -

A Libyan ji­hadist group de­nied Tues­day that al- Qaidalinked mil­i­tant Mokhtar Belmokhtar — the man be­hind mul­ti­ple deadly at­tacks with a history of com­ing back from the dead — was killed in a U. S. airstrike.

An­sar al-Sharia named seven peo­ple it said were killed in the U.S. strike in eastern Libya but Belmokhtar, who Washington has said was the tar­get, was not among them.

“No other per­son was killed,” the group, which is des­ig­nated as a ter­ror­ist or­ga­ni­za­tion by the United Na­tions, said in a state­ment.

Belmokhtar, an Al­ge­rian nick­named var­i­ously as “The Un­catch­able,” “Mr. Marl­boro” and “The One-Eyed,” is leader of the North African Al-Mura­bitoun mil­i­tant group and a for­mer chief of al-Qaida in the Is­lamic Maghreb (AQIM).

He al­legedly mas­ter­minded the 2013 siege of an Al­ge­rian gas plant in which 38 hostages, mostly Western­ers, were killed.

Libya’s in­ter­na­tion­ally rec­og­nized gov­ern­ment claimed on Sun­day that Belmokhtar — who has been re­ported dead on sev­eral pre­vi­ous oc­ca­sions — was killed in the strike.

The Pen­tagon had it­self been non- com­mit­tal about whether the strike by two F-15 Strike Ea­gle fighter jets armed with 500-pound bombs had suc­ceeded in killing its tar­get.

U.S. Air Force Sec­re­tary Deb­o­rah Lee James said: “The ac­tual im­pact of that raid is still be­ing as­sessed.”

The last U. S. op­er­a­tion in Libya was in 2014, when spe­cial forces cap­tured Ahmed Abu Khat­tala, an al­leged or­ga­nizer of the at­tack against the U. S. con­sulate in Beng­hazi in 2012 that killed am­bas­sador Chris Stevens and three other Amer­i­cans.

Libya said the strike had been car­ried out in co­or­di­na­tion with its in­ter­na­tion­ally rec­og­nized gov­ern­ment.

Prime Min­is­ter Ab­dul­lah alThani called it “part of in­ter­na­tional aid that has long been sought in the fight against ter­ror­ism.”

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