17 killed in airstrike in Libya; unclear if al-Qaida leader dead

World Today

Mokhtar Belmokhtar This wanted poster from the website of the U.S. State Department’s Rewards For Justice program shows a mugshot of Mokhtar Belmokhtar, charged with leading the attack on a gas plant in Algeria in 2013 that killed at least 35 hostages, including three Americans. The U.S military said on Monday, June 15, 2015 it likely killed the al-Qaida-linked militant leader when it launched airstrikes in eastern Libya over the weekend. (U.S. State Department Rewards For Justice via AP)

The military spokesman of the internationally-recognized Libyan government says three foreigners were among 17 killed in U.S. in eastern Libya, adding that it is too early to determine if an al-Qaida-linked militant leader was among them.

The U.S. military confirmed on Sunday that Algerian militant Mokhtar Belmokhtar was the target of a U.S. air strike in Libya but did not say if he had been killed.

“The strike was carried out by U.S. aircraft. We are continuing to assess the results of the operation and will provide more details as appropriate,” Pentagon spokesman Colonel Steve Warren said in a statement.

Libya’s recognized government said earlier on Sunday that Belmokhtar, blamed for masterminding an Algerian gas field attack and running smuggling routes across North Africa, had been killed in a U.S. air strike inside Libya. Pentagon officials said the strike successfully hit its target. U.S. Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James confirmed Monday that the target was an al-Qaida-linked leader, but said the results of the raid are still being studied.

Libyan military spokesman Maj. Mohammed Hegazi tells The Associated Press two foreign militant leaders and a Tunisian fighter were killed. He says tests are needed to determine if Belmokhtar is among them.

Libya is split between two rival governments.

Compiled from AP Exchange and Reuters.