A Libyan military spokesman on Monday said that it is too early to determine whether Algerian terrorist Mokhtar Belmokhtar, who was targeted by an American airstrike in Libya, had indeed been killed.
According to The Associated Press (AP), the spokesman confirmed that three foreigners were among a number of terrorists killed in the airstrikes in eastern Libya, but their identities were not confirmed.
The U.S military on Sunday confirmed it launched weekend airstrikes in Libya targeting Mokhtar Belmokhtar, who once belonged to Al-Qaeda and who is charged with leading a 2013 attack on a gas plant in Algeria that killed at least 35 hostages, including three Americans.
Pentagon spokesman Col. Steve Warren said it was believed the strike was successful but "post-strike assessments" were still underway to determine whether the target was killed.
A Libyan Islamist with ties to Libyan militants, however, said the airstrikes missed Belmokhtar, according to AP. Instead, the Islamist said, the strikes killed four members of the Libyan extremist group Ansar Sharia in Ajdabiya.
If confirmed, Belmokhtar's death would be considered a major success for the United States. Belmokhtar was considered among the most wanted terrorists in the region.
There was no immediate proof provided for Belmokhtar's death, which requires a DNA test or an announcement by his group that he was killed, noted AP.
The Libyan government initially said Belmokhtar was killed and hailed the raid as a sign of international help it has sought against terrorists who run rampant in much of the country. Libya is split between the international recognized government based in the east and another government in Tripoli, backed by Islamist militias.
But highlighting the uncertainty of operating in chaos-plagued country, Libyan military spokesman Maj. Mohammed Hegazi told AP that it was too early to confirm if Belmokhtar was killed.
He said the government's statement was "too hasty," adding that tests are still under way.
Hegazi said the bodies are charred from the raid, that killed 17, including two foreign militant leaders and a Tunisian fighter.
"I don't confirm or deny. We are waiting confirmation," he told AP speaking by telephone.