U.S. Airstrike Targets al Qaeda Operative Mokhtar Belmokhtar

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. military conducted an airstrike in Libya Saturday night targeting Mokhtar Belmokhtar, the man behind a massive 2013 attack on gas facility in Algeria that killed more than 30 people, including Americans and Britons.

A U.S. official confirmed that Belmokhtar was the intended target of the strike after the Libyan government issued a statement saying Belmokhtar was killed in the strike.

"Belmokhtar has a long history of leading terrorist activities as a member of AQIM, is the operational leader of the al Qaeda-associated Al Murabitun organization in Northwest Africa, and maintains his personal allegiance to al Qaeda," Pentagon spokesman Col. Steve Warren said. "Belmokhtar directed the 2013 attacks at In-Amenas in Algeria that resulted in the deaths of at least 38 individuals from ten countries, including three Americans, and poses a continuing threat to U.S. persons."

The strike was carried out by U.S. aircraft. We are continuing to assess the results of the operation and will provide more details as appropriate."

Initially the Pentagon had confirmed an aerial strike against an al Qaeda target in Libya, but did not name the target.

One official said the strike in Libya appeared to have been successful though the assessment continues.

He did not have information available as to the location of the air strike inside Libya.

Asked if Libya had granted permission for the strike, Maj. James Brindle, a Pentagon spokesman, said: "The U.S. conducted this operation in accordance with international law and with respect for Libya's sovereignty."

Warren said there were no U.S. military personnel inside Libya for the airstrike.

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