World Bulletin / News Desk
Mokhtar Belmokhtar, a founder of al Qaeda's North African offshoot, is alive and leading military operations, an associate said on Tuesday, denying a report that the Algerian had been killed in clashes in Mali in late June.
He has been sentenced by an Algerian court to life imprisonment in absentia in connection with the killing of 10 Algerian customs agents in 2007.
Ennahar TV, a private Algerian channel, quoted unidentified sources on June 28 as confirming Belmokhtar's death in armed clashes in the town of Gao.
But Oumar Ould Hamaha, a colleague of Belmokhtar's reached by telephone, said Belmokhtar was in good health.
"He is alive and fine, he is with us and he is moving around," Ould Hamaha said. "He is leading operations."
There was no independent corroboration of Ould Hamaha's comments, but a European official who follows North African armed groups said in early July that the Algerian television report was not regarded as reliable.
Belmokhtar heads one of two AQIM battalions in Algeria's southern desert bordering Mali.
Ennahar had said Belmokhtar was believed to have died during a battle in which at least 20 people were killed on June 27 in the north Mali town of Gao.Last Mod: 28 Ağustos 2012, 14:20