CATF Reports Nov. 30, 2016, 9:53am


Elusive al Qaeda financier Mokhtar Belmokhtar has once again been pronounced dead following a joint French-U.S. aircraft strike in Libya, The Wall Street Journal reported on Monday. While the White House and Pentagon have yet to release any public statements, U.S. intelligence officials ensure that an airstrike early this November was the final blow to the man French officials labeled as “uncatchable”. Belmokhtar has evaded death numerous times, despite efforts by France, Algeria and the U.S., who tracked him for nearly ten years, placing $5 million bounty over his head in 2013.

Belmokhtar was an original leader of al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), and has since funneled millions of dollars to the group through alleged hostage kidnappings, narcotics and car smuggling. He exploited Africa’s pervasive tobacco industry through a $1 billion cigarette trafficking enterprise, garnering him a second nickname of “Mr. Marlboro”. Following Moammar Gaddafi’s 2011 ousting, Belmokhtar purportedly inherited Libya’s entire weapons cache, which he likely supplied to his AQIM cohorts. His wily endeavors have earned him sanctions by the EU and UN, along with the U.S, Canada, Australia, Israel, Switzerland and Hong Kong.

While Belmohktar has a legendary history of waging jihad, one of his most deadly recent attacks was a 2013 hostage standoff at a Western-owned Algerian gas plant, totaling 37 total deaths, including three Americans. In 2015, he again claimed responsibility for a siege on the Radisson Blu Hotel in Bamako, Mali, that claimed the lives of 20 foreign tourists.

From The Wall Street Journal:

“Mr. Belmokhtar has raised tens of millions of dollars for al Qaeda affiliates through smuggling and by taking European hostages and selling illicit goods, and is considered directly responsible for the deaths of at least three Americans, according to U.S. officials.

The U.S. in 2013 launched a multiagency effort to find him that included the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the military’s Joint Special Operations Command and the Drug Enforcement Administration.

Mr. Belmokhtar, once the head of the al Qaeda chapter in North Africa and the Sahel region—known as al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, or AQIM—has been on the U.S. wanted list for at least a decade. He was thought to have been killed at least twice before, including in an airstrike in June and a drone strike last year.”

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