A Libyan Islamist group said an al-Qaeda leader targeted in a U.S. airstrike in eastern Libya survived the attack.
The Pentagon had said Monday that the target of the raid, Mokhtar Belmokhtar, likely died. On Tuesday, the Ansar al-Sharia group said in a statement posted on affiliated Twitter accounts that the Algerian militant wasn’t killed. It offered no evidence.
Belmokhtar was a senior commander of al-Qaeda’s North African arm, known as al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, before forming his own militia. Previous reports of his death have proven false. Belmokhtar and his fighters were responsible for attacks in Mali, and kidnapped and killed dozens of foreign workers at a gas plant in Algeria run by BP Plc, Statoil Asa and Sonatrach in 2013.
On Monday, Army Colonel Steve Warren told reporters that the Pentagon’s initial assessment was that “it was a successful strike” but that it wasn’t prepared to confirm that until a final assessment was completed.
Libya’s interim government initially announced that Belmokhtar was killed. A military spokesman for the government later backed off that claim, saying it was too early to be certain of his fate, the Associated Press reported.
The strike marked a rare U.S. intervention in Libya since the 2012 attack on a U.S. compound in Benghazi that killed four Americans, including the U.S. ambassador, Christopher Stevens.