MS Risk Blog

Algerian Militant Believed Killed in French Air Strike

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On Monday, reports emerged that militant Mokhtar Belmokhtar, who is one of al-Qaeda’s most notorious allies in North Africa, has been killed in a French air strike.

A US official confirmed a report in the Wall Street Journal that US intelligence helped France target the veteran jihadist. The news comes as French defense minister Jean-Yves Le Drian was in Washington for talks with his US counterpart Secretary of Defense Ash Carter. However neither top official confirmed the strike, which is said to have taken place in southern Libya earlier this month. Furthermore, while the Algerian militant, commander of an al-Qaeda-linked faction of the al-Murabitoun group, has been reported killed on a number of previous occasions, the official disclosed that the latest strike is believed to have finally hit the elusive militant, who was once known for kidnapping Europeans for multi-million dollar ransoms. Citing experts and unnamed officials, the Wall Street Journal reported that the strike reflects closer US and French intelligence cooperation. In the wake of the November 2015 Islamist attacks in Paris, which killed 130 people, US President Barack Obama promised that closer intelligence cooperation with Paris would begin. In 2013, Belmoktar became one of the world’s most wanted men after an attack on the In Amenas gas plant in Algeria, which left at least 38 hostages dead. Over the past few years, his group has continued to carry out deadly attacks and this year it claimed responsibly for an attack on a luxury hotel in Burkina Faso that killed another twenty people, most of them foreigners. Washington has put a US $5 million bounty on the 44-year-old head, dubbing him the leader of the Khaled Abu al-Abbas Brigade, also known as the “Signatories in Blood.” More recently, reports that he is in Libya have fuelled concern that jihadists will take advantage of the political turmoil there to establish a base of operations.