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U.S. Airstrikes In Libya Kill Algerian Militant Mokhtar Belmokhtar

U.S. airstrikes in Libya have killed Algerian militant Mokhtar Belmokhtar, who led the 2013 terrorist attack on an Algerian gas plant that killed 38 foreign hostages.

Two pentagon officials confirm that U.S. airstrikes killed Belmokhtar; the Libyan government also released a statement confirming his death.

Belmokhtar was a leader of al-Qaida's arm in North Africa, known as al-Qaida in the Islamic Magreb. He was notorious for taking hostages, and was one of the first al-Qaida leaders to use ransoms as a way to raise money for terrorism.

The 2013 hostage crisis in Algeria lasted for several days. Hundreds of people were taken hostage; 38 foreign hostages, including three Americans, were killed. In the days after the crisis ended, Belmokhtar claimed responsibility for the attack, and said, "We did it for al-Qaida."

As NPR's Greg Myre wrote in 2013, Belmokhtar rose to prominence in the 1990s and, in the decade before the Algerian attack, was an elusive figure:

He's believed to have spent most of his time in Algeria's Sahara and has been regarded as one of the top figures in al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, or AQIM. The years of battle cost him one eye, and he is widely known as "Mr. Marlboro" — a reference to his reputation as a cigarette smuggler, which is believed to finance his military operations. ... Back in 2003, the United Nations Security Council linked Belmokhtar to Osama bin Laden and said that the Algerian was a key figure with al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb. Belmokhtar apparently had a falling out with AQIM and last year established a separate group, the Signed in Blood Battalion. Algerian courts have sentenced him in absentia three times, including a life-in-prison sentence handed down in 2004.

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