At least seven people reportedly died in the raid.
“I can confirm that the target of last night’s counterterrorism strike in Libya was Mokhtar Belmokhtar,” said Pentagon spokesman Col. Steve Warren. “The strike was carried out by U.S. aircraft. We are continuing to assess the results of the operation and will provide more details as appropriate.”
Other officials said an “Al-Qaeda-associated terrorist” was likely dead. Authorities said there were no U.S. personnel on the ground for the assault. A U.S. official said two F-15 jets launched multiple 500-pound bombs in the attack. The official was not authorized to discuss the details of the attack publicly, so spoke on condition of anonymity.
A source with with ties to Libyan fighters told The Associated Press early Monday that the airstrikes missed Belmokhtar who wasn't at the site but killed four members of Ansar al-Sharia in Ajdabya. The source asked to remain unnamed due to fear of reprisals.
American officials have linked Ansar Shariah to the Sept. 11, 2012, attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi.The U.S. filed terrorism charges against Belmokhtar last year in connection with the Algeria attack. Officials have said they believe he remained a threat to U.S. and Western interests.
The charges filed against Belmokhtar by federal law enforcement officials in Manhattan included conspiring to support Al-Qaeda and use of a weapon of mass destruction. Additional charges of conspiring to take hostages and discharging a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence carry a maximum penalty of death.
At the time, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said in a release that Belmokhtar “unleashed a reign of terror years ago, in furtherance of his self-proclaimed goal of waging bloody jihad against the West.”
Belmokhtar left Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, the North African offshoot of the armed group, then formed his own spinoff.
He has also been associated with various groups involved in attacks on governments in the region.
Known for his involvement with the lucrative abductions of tourists and U.N. officials, Belmokhtar has been declared dead on at least four occasions in recent years including in 2013 when he was believed to have died in fighting in Mali. If his death is confirmed, it is believed it would be a major strike against Al-Qaeda-affiliated groups in the region.
Authorities also offered a $5 million reward for information leading to the arrest of Belmokhtar, who's also been known as The One-Eyed Sheik since he lost an eye in combat. His involvement with arms and cigarette smuggling earned him another name, Mr. Marlboro.
“He's one of the best-known warlords of the Sahara,” said Stephen Ellis, an expert on organized crime and professor at the African Studies Centre in Leiden, the Netherlands.
Libya has descended into chaos since a NATO-backed revolt unseated longtime leader Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. It has rival governments and parliaments, and powerful militias are battling for influence and a share of its oil wealth.
Armed groups have exploited the lawlessness, which has also prompted a huge influx of migrants trying to make the dangerous crossing to Europe, with shipwrecks leaving hundreds dead and the EU straining to respond.
Al Jazeera and wire services