(WASHINGTON) — More than a month after the Chadian military claimed it had killed suspected terror leader Mokhtar Belmokhtar, a U.S. official told ABC News on Wednesday that American intelligence is still “not clear” on whether he’s actually dead.
Belmokhtar, allegedly the planner behind the deadly January 2013 attack on an Algerian natural gas facility, was supposed to have been killed along with “several” other terrorists when a base he was operating in was “completely destroyed” by the Chadian military in an operation in early March in Africa, according to Chadian military spokesperson Gen. Zacharia Gobongue. A soldier in the Chadian military even took blurry, unclear pictures of a body the military claimed was Belmokhtar’s remains.
But after four weeks spent trying to confirm Belmokhtar’s death — and in the wake of a local news report in which a spokesperson for Belmokhtar’s group purportedly denied Chad’s claims — America and its European allies apparently haven’t been able to sort it all out.
“Statements earlier this year from officials in the region that Belmokhtar had been killed in the fighting were too definitive,” the U.S. official said. “Right now his status is not clear.”
Belmokhtar, a former member of al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), reportedly created his own terror group after splitting with al Qaeda in recent months. The attack on the gas facility near In Amenas, Algeria claimed dozens of lives; three of them American.
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
Ralph Ellis and Steve Almasy, CNN
Chris Williams and Jason Hanna, CNN