The North African branch of al Qaeda says the reported death of Algerian militant Mokhtar Belmokhtar in U.S. air strike is false. It was earlier reported that the militant leader had been killed in a raid on the city of Ajdabiya in eastern Libya.
Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb issued a statement claiming that Belmokhtar is alive. The statement dismissed Libya’s claim that the terrorist, also known as Khalid Abu al-Abbas, had been killed June 15.
"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," Al Arabiya quoted the statement. “In the face of these fallacies, and so that we do not leave our Muslim nation as prey to these lies,” the group’s statement further said.
Belmokhtar’s death was believed to be a major blow for the terror organization in the region. He is accused of kidnapping a number of foreign nationals.
Belmokhtar was charged by the United States with planning an attack on a gas plant in Algeria in 2013. The attack killed 38 oil workers. The New York Times reported that the corpses were too charred to be identified.
U.S. authorities acknowledged that Belmokhtar was the target of an airstrike, but there was no confirmation of his death in the raid.
The Guardian earlier reported that a U.S. airstrike had killed Belmokhtar. This was not the first time Belmokhtar was claimed to have been killed. Nevertheless, no such claim was confirmed independently.
Belmokhtar, whom the French military calls “The Uncatchable,” was also reported to have been killed in Mali in 2013. Terrorism expert Rudolph Atallah, who has been following Belmokhtar’s activities since 2003, compares reports of his death to “an Elvis sighting.” According to Atallah, the militant leader has “at least nine lives.”