TERRORISM

Key Al Qaeda leader believed killed in French airstrikes over Libya

The one-eyed Al Qaeday leader is believed to have been killed after more than a decadeon the wanted list.

The one-eyed Al Qaeday leader is believed to have been killed after more than a decadeon the wanted list.

A slippery, one-eyed Al Qaeda leader long wanted by the U.S. appears to have finally met his maker courtesy of French airstrikes over Libya, two Pentagon sources told Fox News.

French fighter jets based on the aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle in the Mediterranean and conducting a mission over southern Libya took out Mokhtar Belmokhtar, two U.S. defense officials told Fox News. American forces have targeted Belmokhtar twice in the past two years, only to see the senior Al Qaeda leader cheat death.

"It looks like he is dead this time," said one official, citing a recent intelligence report.

Neither official contacted by Fox News would say when the French airstrike occurred. The Wall Street Journal, which first reported the strike, said it took place earlier this month. Belmokhtar is the leader of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, or AQIM.  

In January 2013, Belmokhtar led a group of Al Qaeda-affiliated terrorists who kidnapped hundreds of workers at a gas plant in Algeria, including dozens of foreigners. A four-day standoff came to an end when Algerian forces stormed the plant, killing 32 militants. Seven hostages were killed, including one American.

Officials at the White House and the Pentagon declined to comment on the strike, and a spokesman for the French Ministry of Defense declined to comment when contacted by The Wall Street Journal.

Belmokhtar raised millions of dollars for Al Qaeda affiliates through smuggling, hostage-taking and selling illicit goods, and is considered directly responsible for the deaths of at least three Americans.

Belmokhtar has been on the U.S. wanted list for at least a decade.

Fox News' Lucas Tomlinson contributed to this report.