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Libya arrests wife of senior al Qaida-linked militant Belmokhtar

A Libyan anti-terrorism force said that one of Mokhtar Belmokhtar’s wives, Asma Kadousi, was arrested Saturday along with a female companion.

world Updated: Nov 22, 2016 21:59 IST
Mokhtar Belmokhtar,Libya,Asma Kadousi
Algerian militant Mokhtar Belmokhtar is seen in an undated picture from the U.S. Department of Justice. (Reuters)

Libyan authorities said Tuesday that they have arrested a wife of the one-eyed militant leader Mokhtar Belmokhtar, once considered the most dangerous man in the Sahara and a veteran al Qaeda-linked figure.

A Libyan anti-terrorism force said that one of Belmokhtar’s wives, Asma Kadousi, was arrested Saturday along with a female companion. It said she had recently given birth in the militant stronghold of Darna, in eastern Libya. It said Belmokhtar is believed to be in southern Libya.

A witness told The Associated Press earlier this month that he had seen Belmokhtar in the southern town of Sabha, where a drone attack reportedly killed a militant leader linked to Belmokhtar, along with six others, last week. The witness asked not to be named for security concerns, and it was not possible to confirm the report.

The Algerian militant, once a top figure in al Qaeda’s North African affiliate, is one of the most-wanted militants in the region, with a $5 million reward for information leading to his capture. He escaped a US drone strike in eastern Libya last year.

Belmokhtar led the January 2013 attack on Algeria’s Ain Amenas gas complex, in which at least 35 hostages, including three Americans, were killed. Believed to be 43 years old, he was dubbed “the one-eyed sheikh” after losing an eye in combat.

He was later named the leader of the Morabitoon, an al Qaeda-linked group that operates in northern and western Africa, according to the Long War Journal, a blog that monitors jihadi groups.

Libya has been plagued by chaos since the 2011 uprising, in which US and European airstrikes helped rebels overthrow the longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi.

Today much of the country is controlled by a patchwork of armed groups, some of which are allied to a UN-backed government based in the capital, Tripoli, and others allied to authorities based in the country’s far east.

The UN-brokered government on Tuesday condemned the killing of a senior religious official who was abducted in Tripoli a month ago. It was not clear who killed Nader al-Omrani, but he was a member of a religious body that is strongly opposed to Field Marshal Khalifa Hifter, who leads forces allied with the eastern government.

First Published: Nov 22, 2016 21:59 IST