WASHINGTON — The Pentagon says it believes a weekend airstrike in Libya killed an Islamist militant leader responsible for the deaths of dozens of Westerners in North Africa, though the Pentagon was still conducting an assessment and could not confirm that the attack had succeeded.
The Libyan government said on Sunday night that Mokhtar Belmokhtar was killed in the strike. But Col. Steven H. Warren, a Pentagon spokesman, said on Monday that the military was “still conducting the post-strike assessment to determine whether or not our intended target was eliminated.”
Still, when pressed on what the initial reports indicated, Colonel Warren added, “We do assess that it was successful, but we haven’t finalized.”
Initial assessments of airstrikes have often proved wrong, and over the years the military has grown increasingly cautious about declaring its targets dead until it has what commanders feel is definitive proof. Still, even people whom the military has confirmed killed in its attack have later been found alive.
The attack was carried out on Saturday evening by a pair of F-15E Strike Eagles, Colonel Warren said. The aircraft used what he described as “precision munitions,” bombs, to strike a building in eastern Libya.
Mr. Belmokhtar, who was born in Algeria, is best known for leading an attack on a gas plant in Algeria in January 2013 that killed 38 civilians, including three Americans. The group he has led has taken on a number of permutations, and some of his former fighters have more recently joined the Islamic State, though Mr. Belmokhtar has remained loyal to Al Qaeda.
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(via NY Times)