Chief Investigative Reporter Jonathan Dienst on crime, corruption and terrorism.

Al-Qaida Leader Charged in NY Court for Deadly Gas Plant Attack

Authorities believe Mokthar Belmokhtar is still on the loose in North Africa

By Jonathan Dienst
|  Friday, Jul 19, 2013  |  Updated 6:34 PM EDT
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Al-Qaida Leader Charged in NY Court for Deadly Gas Plant Attack

U.S. officials said they believe Mokthar Belmokhtar is still on the loose somewhere in North Africa.

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An al-Qaida terrorist accused of leading the attack on a gas plant in Algeria that killed three Americans has been charged in New York on terror charges. Federal prosecutors announced terror charges Friday against Mokthar Belmokhtar for the January attack that killed 35 hostages during a standoff with Algerian authorities.

U.S. officials said they believe Belmokhtar is still on the loose somewhere in North Africa. He faces eight counts including conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction, hostage taking, kidnapping and providing material support to terrorists. During the attack on the gas plant, terrorists used AK-47’s and mortars to take over the facility. Belmokhtar later issued a claim of responsibility for the attack.

“His efforts culminated in a five-day siege that left dozens dead, including three Americans and hundreds of others fearing for their lives,” said U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara.

Considered a key leader of al-Qaida’s efforts in North Africa, Belmokhtar has been designated a terrorist by U.S .authorities since 2003. He is accused of helping order the kidnapping of two Western diplomats in Niger in 2008 in addition to the Algerian gas attack. And he has issued video statements praising al-Qaida and its current leader Ayman Al Zawahiri.

FBI New York Director George Venizelos called Belmokhtar a “fanatical jihadist” who “formed his own terrorist organization that pledged fealty to al-Qaida.”

Western and African forces had been trying to track Belmokhtar but to date he has not been captured or killed. There is a $5 million dollar reward for information leading to his whereabouts.
 

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