Washington: Al Qaeda’s North Africa branch on Friday denied reports that Algerian Mokhtar Belmokhtar, a major militant figure across North Africa and the Saharan border region, was killed in a US airstrike in Libya.

SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors radical Islamist organisations in the media, cited a statement from Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb posted on Twitter declaring that Belmokhtar, also known as Khalid Abu al-Abbas, is alive, the Independent reported.

“The mujahid commander Khalid Abu al-Abbas is still alive and well, and he wanders and roams in the land of Allah, supporting his allies and vexing his enemies,” said the statement.

Belmokhtar ran smuggling routes across North Africa. He was dubbed “The Uncatchable” by the French military.

Libya’s internationally recognised government, which sits in the eastern town of Bayda, said the US strike had killed Belmokhtar at a gathering with other militant leaders, who it did not name.

Belmokhtar, who was blamed for orchestrating the 2013 attack on Algeria’s In Amenas gas field in which 40 oil workers died, and for several foreign kidnappings, has been reported killed several times, including in 2013 when he was believed to have died in fighting in Mali.

Once associated with Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb’s Algerian leadership, Belmokhtar broke away from the group but remained tied to Al Qaeda’s central leadership even after forming his own group, “Those who Sign in Blood”.

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