Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) has denied through its Twitter account the death of its major commander Mokhtar Belmokhtar, also known as Khalid Abu Abbas, who was reportedly killed in US air strikes.
Libya’s rival Tobruk government officials claimed that Mokhtar Belmokhtar and other fighters were killed in an air strike carried out by the United States inside Libya.
The US military confirmed in the same day that the air strike targeted Mokhtar Belmokhtar. However, there have been many false reports over his death in the past.
Earlier on Sunday, the Pentagon said it conducted a successful air strike against an al Qaeda-associated target in Libya on Saturday night, giving few details.
Pentagon spokesperson Colonel Steve Warren said in a statement: "The strike was carried out by US aircraft. We are continuing to assess the results of the operation and will provide more details as appropriate."
Libya's rival Tobruk government also confirmed the incident on Sunday, saying "the Libyan government in the east of Libya confirms that the US fighter jets conducted air strikes last night in a mission which resulted in the death of the terrorist Belmokhtar."
However, in a statement posted by the AQIM, it was claimed that "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."
Belmokhtar, born in Algeria, was allegedly a veteransenior in theAQIM, but left it to establish his own militia.
He was reportedly trained in Afghanistan’s Al Qaeda camps, going there for the first time in 1989, and was blamed for masterminding an Algerian gas field attack two years ago.
Belmokhtar was blamed on June 15 for a deadly attack on an Algerian gas field by the Libyan government. The French military dubbed him as "The Uncatchable" since he ran a smuggling route across North Africa.
In May, Belmokhar had denied the claims that his group Al Mourabitun had pledged allegiance to ISIS.
Libyan officials said Sunday’s strike came after consultation with the US, but did not give more information about the area of the strike.
Libya is currently divided between two parliaments, the General National Council (GNC) in the capital of Tripoli, which was founded with the help of the United States and France after the overthrow of Libyan authoritarian leader Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, and the breakaway House of Representatives (HoR), which is based in Tobruk.