Al-Qaeda (AQIM) Leader Mokhtar Belmokhtar Behind Algerian Gas Field Raid

An Al Qaeda-linked group from Mali attacked and took control of a natural gas field partly owned by BP in southern Algeria.

Former Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) emir Mokhtar Belmokhtar speaking at an undisclosed location. (AFP)

Al-Qaeda of the Islamic Maghreb emir Mokhtar Belmokhtar is said to be behind the terrorist attack today on an Algerian oil field. Belmokhtar still remains under the orders of al-Qaeda Central.
Al-Arabiya reported:

Islamist militants attacked a gas field in Algeria on Wednesday, claiming to have kidnapped up to 41 foreigners including seven Americans in a dawn raid in retaliation for France’s intervention in Mali, according to regional media reports.

A Mauritanian news agency, ANI, said the raiders were commanded by Mokhtar Belmokhtar, a veteran Saharan jihadist and smuggling kingpin. Here are some facts about Belmokhtar:

Linked to a string of kidnappings of foreigners in North Africa in the last decade, Algerian-born Belmokhtar has earned a reputation as one of the most daring and elusive Islamic jihadist leaders operating in one of the remotest corners of the globe – the vast Sahara desert.

“He’s one of the best known warlords of the Sahara,” said Stephen Ellis, an expert on organised crime and professor at the African Studies Centre in Leiden, the Netherlands. He said Belmokhtar had also gained notoriety as a Saharan smuggler, especially of cigarettes.

French intelligence dubbed Belmokhtar “the uncatchable” in 2002.

Born in Ghardaia, Algeria, in 1972, Belmokhtar started his jihadist activities early, according to his own account in an interview posted on jihadi forums in 2007. He said he travelled at the age of 19 to Afghanistan where he claimed he gained training and combat experience before returning to his homeland Algeria in 1992.

Here’s an earlier video of terrorist Belmokhtar.

UPDATE: Al-Qaeda says they are holding 7 Americans at the gas plant.
Al-Arabiya reported:

Islamist militants attacked a gas field in Algeria on Wednesday, claiming to have kidnapped up to 41 Westerners including seven Americans in a dawn raid in retaliation for France’s military intervention in Mali, according to regional media reports.

A Mauritanian news agency, ANI, said the raiders were commanded by Mokhtar Belmokhtar, a veteran Saharan jihadist and smuggling kingpin. Here are some facts about Belmokhtar.

Linked to a string of kidnappings of foreigners in North Africa in the last decade, Algerian-born Belmokhtar has earned a reputation as one of the most daring and elusive Islamic jihadist leaders operating in one of the remotest corners of the globe – the vast Sahara desert.

“He’s one of the best known warlords of the Sahara,” said Stephen Ellis, an expert on organized crime and professor at the African Studies Centre in Leiden, the Netherlands. He said Belmokhtar had also gained notoriety as a Saharan smuggler, especially of cigarettes.

French intelligence dubbed Belmokhtar “the uncatchable” in 2002.

UPDATE: From Al-Arabiya on Twitter: 55 kidnapped Algerian and foreign workers were freed.
It is not clear if this includes the Americans or not.

UPDATE: Maybe not. There are no other reports to confirm that any hostages were released today.

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