Members of the Chadian military reportedly shot and killed Mokhtar Belmokhtar, the terrorist connected with Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb who claimed responsibility for the Algerian hostage crisis, during a raid on Saturday. Don't get excited just yet, though: he's been dead before.
Details are still sketchy, but if this proves to be true this will be a huge accomplishment for the Chadian military. The only details so far come from statements read on Chadian state TV. The military claims Belmokhtar was killed in a raid on an Islamist rebel base Saturday. "On Saturday, March 2, at noon, Chadian armed forces operating in northern Mali completely destroyed a terrorist base (...) The toll included several dead terrorists, including their leader Mokhtar Belmokhtar," the head of Chad's military said during his appearance.
If the report turns out to be false, and Belmokhtar is still alive, it will be the second time the terrorist has returned from the dead. Belmohktar was falsely reported dead in 1999, according to a The New York Times profile written around the time of the Algeria hostage situation. Belmohktar got his nickname, "Mr. Marlboro," for the vast cigarette-smuggling network he used to finance his seedier, deadlier, more destructive terrorist operations. The french have also called him "The Uncatchable," just to further drive home how significant a confirmed kill could be for Chad.
Belmokhtar claimed to be the leader of the terrorist group who were behind the hostage situation at the Algerian oil station in January. He is often reported to be a senior member of al Qaeda's operations in northern Africa, but other reports have claimed he broke from the group and operates on his own. In the case of the Algeria crisis, which resulted in the death of three Americans, there was speculation he re-teamed with AQIM to carry out the attack. He may have never parted from Al Qaeda at all.
For now, we're taking Chad's military at their word. The French military will have to confirm the death of Mr. Marlboro, and another top regional Al Qaeda commander Chad claims to have killed yesterday. All in all, that's not a bad weekend for Chad. And it's not even Sunday yet.