$5 Million Reward for Info on Terror Suspect

MANHATTAN (CN) – The United States amended a formerly sealed terrorism complaint against a man accused of the January attack on a Western-owned gas processing facility in Algeria that killed three Americans and others.
     The sealed complaint was filed against Mokhtar Belmokhtar in February. It is attached as an exhibit to the amended, eight-count federal complaint, which was filed Friday.
     In it, the United States accuses Belmokhtar aka Khalid Abu al Abbas aka Khalid al Daas of conspiring to provide material support to al Qaeda and al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), hostage-taking conspiracy, kidnapping of internationally protected persons and conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction.
     The Treasury Department designated Belmokhtar a foreign terrorist in 2003, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
     Prosecutors claim Belmokhtar was a key leader of al Qaeda in North Africa from 2008 through early this year, orchestrating numerous kidnappings and murders.
     The amended complaint claims that in December 2008 Belmokhtar and others acting at his command kidnapped two Western diplomats working in Niger on a United Nations mission. The diplomats were held for four months before being released in Mali.
     On Jan. 16 this year, terrorists in Belmokhtar’s “Singers in Blood” Battalion – affiliated with al Qaeda – attacked the gas processing facility in Algeria, according to an FBI agent’s declaration, which constitutes the amended complaint. Many hostages were killed during the siege: terrorists attached explosives to some of them, wound detonation cord around their necks and threatened to kill them.
     Belmokhtar appeared in an online video about a day after the siege ended and claimed responsibility for the attack, on al Qaeda’s behalf. Three of the hostage-takers in that attack were arrested and admitted they were part of an al Qaeda group, of which Belmokhtar was the “emir” or leader, prosecutors said.
     “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 statement. “His efforts culminated in a five-day siege that left dozens dead, including three Americans, and hundreds of others fearing for their lives, as the amended complaint describes. For the victims, their families, and their friends, who hail from all over the world, five days must have seemed like an eternity. Belmokhtar brought terror and blood to these innocent people, and now we intend to bring Belmokhtar to justice, as charged.”
     The amended complaint charges Belmokhtar with conspiring to provide material support to terrorists organizations; hostage taking conspiracy; conspiracy to discharge a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence; discharging a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence; conspiracy to use and carry an explosive during the commission of a felony; conspiracy to kidnap internationally protected persons; kidnapping internationally protected persons; and conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction.
     If convicted, Belmokhtar, who is at large, could be sentenced to death or life in prison. The Department of Justice is offering a $5 million reward for information leading to his capture.

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