Terrorist wanted in Algerian attack charged in New York

Federal prosecutors in New York on
Friday charged a one-eyed veteran Islamist
fighter with crimes related to a brazen attack
on a gas facility in Algeria earlier this year
that left 37 hostages dead, including three
Americans.
Mokhtar Belmokhtar was charged on various
conspiracy counts including hostage-taking,
kidnapping, providing material support to al
Qaeda, and conspiring to use a weapon of
mass destruction, according to the U.S.
Attorney's Office for the Southern district of
New York. He is currently at large.
While there was no elaboration from federal
prosecutors on why the charges against a
non-U.S. citizen, stemming from an attack in
Alergia, were filed in New York, the attack
resulted in deaths of Americans.
"Mokhtar Belmokhtar unleashed a reign of
terror years ago, in furtherance of his self-
proclaimed goal of waging bloody jihad
against the West," U.S. Attorney Preet
Bharara said in a release from the Justice
Department. "His efforts culminated in a
five-day siege that left dozens dead,
including three Americans, and hundreds of
others fearing for their lives."
Belmokhtar is the founder of
the Signed-in-Blood Battalion,
also known as the al-
Mulathamun Battalion. The
group claimed responsibility for
the January attack.
"The charges against Mokhtar
Belmokhtar describe a
fanatical jihadist leading an
extremist vanguard of an
extremist ideology," FBI
Assistant Director-in-Charge
George Venizelos said in the
Justice Department statement.
"As alleged, he kidnapped
diplomats, formed his own
terrorist organization that
pledged fealty to al-Qaeda,
and masterminded the
murderous siege of a civilian
plant in Algeria that resulted
in the deaths of dozens of
hostages."
In the Algerian siege, heavily-
armed militants in pickup
trucks struck a sprawling state-
owned natural gas complex
near In Amenas, gathered the
Westerners who worked there into a group
and tied them up, according to Algerian
Prime Minister Prime Minister Abdul Malek
Sallal.
After taking control of the facility, the
militants planted explosives throughout the
complex.
The military tried to negotiate with the
militants, but their demands to release
militants held prisoner in Algeria were
deemed unreasonable, leading to intervention
by special forces troops backed by the
Algerian Air Force, according to Sallal.
The gas facility operated in cooperation with
foreign energy firms such as Norway's Statoil
and Britain's BP -- and as such, employed
workers from several Western countries.
Belmokhtar said the attack was in retaliation
for Algeria allowing France to use its
airspace to battle Islamist militants in Mali.
Belmokhtar was designated as a foreign
terrorist by the United States Department of
Treasury in 2003 and is considered a key
figure in al Qaeda's efforts in North Africa.
The State Department has a $5 million dollar
reward out for information on his
whereabouts.