Mokhtar Belmokhtar, the al-Qaeda commander who masterminded an attack on a gas plant in Algeria January 16, 2013 has been killed.
Chad’s military said Belmokhtar, one of the world’s most wanted men, died on Saturday in an assault on an Islamist rebel base in northern Mali.
Belmokhtar has been on the international most-wanted list following the death of at least 37 foreign hostages, including six Britons, in the Algeria gas complex hostage crisis carried out by Islamists in eastern Algeria.
General Zacharia Gobongue, the Chadian armed forces spokesman in a statement read out on Chadian national television said: “On Saturday, March 2, at noon, Chadian armed forces operating in northern Mali completely destroyed a terrorist base. The toll included several dead terrorists, including their leader Mokhtar Belmokhtar.”
BP operates the gas plant together with Norway’s Statoil and Sonatrach, and was on January 16 attacked by militants who seized hundreds of hostages. A siege in the desert ensued as the Algerian army launched an assault on the complex, ending in a bloodbath that accounted for at least 37 death of foreigners on January 19.
Belmokhtar later posted a video online confirming his involvement in the attack which he described as a “blessed operation”.
In the message, which was recorded before the final stand-off with the Algerian army, Belmokhtar said the operation was carried out by 40 “jihadists”, including several Westerners. He demanded that France withdraw its troops from Mali.
Belmokhtar’s death, if confirmed, would be a major blow to Islamist rebels in northern Mali who have been pushed into their mountain strongholds by French and African forces.
The one-eyed Algerian militant leader acquired the nickname ‘Mr Marlboro” because of is involvement in smuggling cigarettes across the Sahel region of West Africa to raise funds for his jihad.
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