It’s been three months since the Chadian army claimed to have killedterrorist leader Mokhtar Belmokhtar, but apparently the U.S. government isn’t sold and instead has just announced a $5 million reward for information leading to his location.
The U.S. State Department announced today that Belmokhtar is among those targeted in an unprecedented $23 million push against wanted “key leaders of terrorist organizations in West Africa” including the chiefs of al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), Boko Haram and Belmokhtar’s group, the Signed-in-Blood Battalion.
The State Department said it was Belmokhtar’s group that assaulted the natural gas facility near In Amenas, Algeria in January, killing more than three dozen people including three Americans. Two months later, a spokesperson for Chad’s military said Belmokhtar was among those killed in a military operation in northern Mali.
But following that report, U.S. intelligence and military officials were wary of confirming Belmokhtar’s death, and later spokespeople for the Signers-in-Blood Brigade occasionally publicized messages they said were from Belmokhtar.
Belmokhtar, known as Mr. Marlboro because of the millions he made smuggling cigarettes across the Sahara, is believed to have formed the Signers-in-Blood Brigade after a falling out with the larger AQIM terrorist organization.
Last week The Associated Press reported they discovered a scathing letter from Belmokhtar’s terrorist superiors in which they chastise him for much of the same bureaucratic violations a major corporation would: for missing meetings, failing to file his expense reports and not answering his phone when they called.
After the split, Belmokhtar announced he would use his wealth to finance more attacks against American and Western interests in the region and beyond.
When the Chadian military reported Belmokhtar’s supposed death, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.) said that should it be confirmed, it would “be had hard blow to the collection of jihadists operating across the region that are targeting American diplomats and energy workers.”
Also among the accused terrorist leaders targeted by the State Department with multi-million dollar bounties today are Yahya Abu el Hammam and Malik Abou Abdelkarim, both senior leaders of AQIM; Oumar Ould Hamaha, a former member of AQIM and now spokesperson for another regional terror group; and Abudbakar Shekau, leader of Boko Haram.