17 June 2015, NYT: For U.S., Killing Terrorists Is a Means to an Elusive End
15 June 2015, NYT: U.S. Airstrike in Libya Targets Planner of 2013 Algeria Attack
JUNE 18, 2015
Al Qaeda Denies U.S. Strike Killed Key Jihadist in Libya
By RUKMINI CALLIMACHI
Al Qaeda's branch in North Africa, in a stinging statement issued Thursday, denied that the jihadist leader Mokhtar Belmokhtar had been killed in an American airstrike in Libya  this week.
"In the face of these fallacies, and so that we do not leave our Muslim nation as prey to these lies," the statement issued by Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb said, using a nom de guerre for Mr. Belmokhtar, "the jihadist commander Khaled Abou Abbas is still alive and kicking and wandering the land of God."
It was the second such statement denying that Mr. Belmokhtar, the man behind the 2013 seizure of an Algerian gas plant that left 38 foreign hostages dead, had been killed. The first, which came earlier Thursday, was published online by Al Mourabitoun, a group affiliated with Mr. Belmokhtar.
The statement by Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb appeared on Twitter. Al Mourabitoun released its message on a Mauritanian website that Mr. Belmokhtar has frequently used to claim attacks, including his signature act of terrorism, the attack on the BP-operated gas installation at Ain Amenas in southern Algeria.
Hundreds of employees of the plant were initially taken hostage and 38 foreigners, including American citizens, perished in the attack.
United States officials have confirmed that Mr. Belmokhtar was the target of the strike in Libya on Sunday, which was carried out by American F-15E fighter jets. At the same time, they expressed caution over his fate, saying that forensic evidence was needed to declare with certainty that he had been killed.
Libyans near the scene of the strike in Adjabiya, a coastal enclave on the Mediterranean Sea about 90 miles south of Benghazi, reported that the bodies of people killed in the attack were charred beyond recognition, making identification unlikely in the immediate aftermath of the bombing.
Within days, however, jihadists, including a cell in the Libyan town of Derna known to be in contact with Mr. Belmokhtar's group, issued a list of the dead that did not include the militant leader's name.
Qaeda-linked groups typically herald the deaths of their fighters in the belief that they have been martyred and have earned a place in paradise.
For example, following a drone strike in Al Mukalla, Yemen, last week that killed Nasser al-Wuhayshi,  a leader of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, that group hurried to put out a video tribute, confirming his death almost the same time as United States officials did.
Mr. Belmokhtar, an Algerian who fought in the civil war there, was a commander of Al Qaeda's branch in North Africa until late 2012, when he split off to create his own group, which he said would report directly to Ayman al-Zawahri, the Pakistan-based commander in chief of Al Qaeda.
In French intelligence circles, Mr. Belmokhtar earned the nickname "the Uncatchable" because of the number of times he had been falsely declared dead.
Rudolph Atallah, a terrorism expert who has tracked Mr. Belmokhtar since 2003, compares news of his death to "an Elvis sighting."
"The guy has at least nine lives," said Mr. Atallah, who served as the Africa counterterrorism director in the office of the secretary of defense until 2009. "This is at least the eighth time he has come back from the dead."