Death of Islamist Militant Leader Mokhtar Belmokhtar Unconfirmed in Mali Attack

Portrait of Mokhtar Belmokhtar. Photo: Flickr.com/Abode of Chaos

Portrait of Mokhtar Belmokhtar. Photo: Flickr.com/Abode of Chaos

Following a joint attack by the Chadian and French armies in Adrar des Ifoghas in North Mali Saturday, March 2 2013, Mokhtar Belmokhtar was pronounced to be amongst those killed.  However, conflicting reports have kept the former Al-Qaeda leader’s death from being confirmed Sunday, March 3.

These accounts come on the heels of a raid on a major Islamist base in the region where several militant leaders were rumored to be.  The Chadian soldiers, who led the offensive, believe that about 60 rebels were killed in the attack, one of whom may have been Belmokhtar.  In an interview for the New York Times, General Oumar Bikomo, a general in the Chadian Army, stated, “it is certain that some leaders were killed…we can’t really identify who is who.”

Belmokhtar, a well-known leader in Al-Qaeda in the Sahel before defecting to create his own group last year, is one of the principal radical Islamist militants operating in Mali currently.  In January, the one-eyed commander led the raid that killed 23 hostages at a gas-processing complex in the Algerian desert.

Despite the lack of confirmation, another Chadian general announced Belmokhtar’s death on television from Chad’s capital of Ndjamena Saturday.  The combat in the region, which borders Algeria, has grown more and more intense over the last couple of days, following the abduction of seven French civilians.  French and Chadian troops have been fighting the jihadists at close range, according to reports, and Saturday night, a French parachutist was killed during a firefight.  Sgt. Cedric Charenton, 26, and his unit were involved in “one of the most violent engagements” of the offensive, according to the French Defense Minister, Jean-Ives Le Drian.  Sgt. Chartenton is the third French casualty since the intervention began in January.

Belmokhtar’s death has still only been confirmed by Chad’s government-run television with French officials waiting for DNA results to come back before confirming the death as well.

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  1. […] possible deaths of two rebel targets from Al-Qaeda’s North African group, Abou Zeid and Mokhtar Belmokhtar.  Neither has yet been confirmed dead with DNA confirmation results […]

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