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Al-Qaeda denies leader killed in Libya drone strike

Chadian soldiers in 2013 looking triumphant believing they had killed Belmochtar in Mali. (Getty)

Date of publication: 19 June, 2015

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Al-Qaeda in Libya on Friday denied its leader Mokhtar Belmokhtar was killed in US drone attack last week that killed at least 17.
Al-Qaeda's branch in North Africa says a top leader targeted earlier this week in a US drone strike is "still alive and well."

The group known as al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) said in a statement, Friday, that Mokhtar Belmokhtar was not killed in a drone strike in the eastern city of Ajdabiya.

US officials said Belmokhtar was the primary target of the Sunday strike. The Pentagon originally stated that Belmokhtar had been killed but later backed away from that contention.

SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors radical Islamist organizations in the media, cited a statement from AQIM posted on Twitter declaring that Belmokhtar, also known as Khalid Abu al-Abbas, is alive.

"The mujahid commander Khalid Abu al-Abbas is still alive and well, and he wanders and roams in the land of Allah, supporting his allies and vexing his enemies," said the statement.

Belmokhtar is one of the most-wanted militants in the region, with a $5 million reward for information leading to his capture. A veteran of Afghanistan, Belmokhtar led the January 2013 attack on Algeria's Ain Amenas gas complex that killed at least 35 hostages, including three Americans.

Belmokhtar also ran smuggling routes across North Africa and was dubbed "The Uncatchable" by the French military.

The elusive militant was once associated with al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb's Algerian leadership but broke to form his own group, "Those who sign in Blood", which mainted close ties with al-Qaeda's central leadership.

His death would have been a major blow to militant groups in the region linked to al-Qaeda. 


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