PARIS : The U.S. Air Force chief on Monday confirmed weekend airstrikes targeting an extremist leader linked to al-Qaida, and said the results of the raid were still being studied.
U.S. officials say the attack probably killed Mokhtar Belmokhtar, charged with leading the attack on a gas plant in Algeria in 2013 that killed at least 35 hostages, including three Americans. An Islamist with ties to Libyan militants cast doubt on the claim.
“The impact of the raid is still being assessed,” U.S. Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James told reporters at the Paris Air Show on Monday. “I have absolute confidence in our people and the intelligence, but this is not exact science. So this is why I would just have to say stand by.”
She said the attack was carried out by F-15E aircraft, using precision weapons, and that “enormous care” was taken to avoid hurting civilians.
“Indeed the target of this operation was Mokhtar Belmokhtar, who of course has a long history of terror with al-Qaida affiliates,” she said.
Belmokhtar, who reportedly lost his eye in combat and fought in Afghanistan, battled Algeria’s government since the 1990s and then joined al-Qaida before branching out with his own group.