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Al-Qaeda denies reports of Mokhtar Belmokhtar's death

SITE Intelligence Group cited a statement from al-Qaeda declaring that Belmokhtar is still alive.

FILE: A screengrab shows a picture of a veteran Islamist militant, Mokhtar Belmokhtar, blamed for masterminding an Algerian gas field attack and running smuggling routes across North Africa.

CAIRO - Al-Qaeda's North Africa branch has denied reports that Algerian militant Mokhtar Belmokhtar, a major figure in insurgencies across North Africa and the Saharan border region, was killed in a US air strike in Libya.

SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors radical Islamist organizations in the media, cited a statement from al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb posted on Twitter declaring that Belmokhtar, also known as Khalid Abu al-Abbas, is alive.

"The mujahid commander Khalid Abu al-Abbas is still alive and well, and he wanders and roams in the land of Allah, supporting his allies and vexing his enemies," said the statement.

Libya's government said on 15 June that the militant blamed for a deadly attack on an Algerian gas field.

Belmokhtar also ran smuggling routes across North Africa. He was dubbed "The Uncatchable" by the French military.

Libya's internationally recognised government, which sits in the eastern town of Bayda, said the US strike had killed Belmokhtar at a gathering with other militant leaders, who it did not name.

Belmokhtar, who was blamed for orchestrating the 2013 attack on Algeria's In Amenas gas field in which 40 oil workers died, and for several foreign kidnappings, has been reported killed several times, including in 2013 when he was believed to have died in fighting in Mali.

His death would be a major strike against al-Qaeda-tied groups in the region.

Once associated with al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb's Algerian leadership, Belmokhtar broke from the group but remained tied to al-Qaeda's central leadership even after forming his own group "Those who sign in Blood".