A top Islamist militant who ordered a deadly attack on an Algerian gas plant two years ago has been killed in a US air strike, Libyan officials say.
Mokhtar Belmokhtar and other fighters were killed in the operation in the eastern city of Ajdabiya, a statement from Libya’s government said.
However, there have been incorrect reports of his death in the past.
The Pentagon has confirmed Belmokhtar was the target of a strike but has not said if he was killed.
“We are continuing to assess the results of the operation and will provide more details as appropriate,” said Pentagon Spokesman Steve Warren.
Born in Algeria, Belmokhtar was a former senior figure in al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), but left to form his own militia.
He gained notoriety with the attack on the In Amenas gas plant in Algeria in 2013, when about 800 people were taken hostage and 40 killed, most of them foreigners, including six Britons and three Americans.
The US has filed terror charges against him and officials said they believed he remained a threat to Western interests.
“Belmokhtar has a long history of leading terrorist activities as a member of AQIM, is the operational leader of the al-Qaeda-associated al-Murabitoun organisation in north-west Africa, and maintains his personal allegiance to al-Qaeda,” said Mr Warren.
Libya said the strike came after consultation with the US. Their statement said it resulted in the death of the “terrorist Belmokhtar”.
The country has been in chaos since the ousting of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.
Libya’s internationally recognised parliament is operating in exile in the eastern port of Tobruk.
A rival parliament, the Islamist-dominated General National Congress, is nearly 1,000km (620 miles) to the west in Tripoli.
Rival militia have been battling to fill the power vacuum, with Islamic State militants battling other Islamists in the east.
Profile: Mokhtar Belmokhtar
- Known as “the One-Eyed”, as he often wore an eye patch, also as “Mr Marlboro”, as he used cigarette smuggling to finance his jihad
- Fought against Soviet forces in Afghanistan in the late 1980s
- A former leading figure in al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), but left after falling out with its leaders
- Went on to lead the Islamist militia group al-Murabitoun, which has attacked local and international forces in Mali