Charges Filed In Manhattan Federal Court Against Mokhtar Belmokhtar For His Role In Terror Attack In Algeria And Other Crimes
Alleged Al Qaeda Leader in North Africa Charged in Connection With Terror Attack on Algerian Gas Processing Facility in Which More Than 35 Hostages Were Killed, Including Three Americans
Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, John Carlin, the Acting Assistant Attorney General for National Security, George Venizelos, the Assistant Director-in-Charge of the New York Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”), and Raymond W. Kelly, the Police Commissioner of the City of New York (“NYPD”), today announced the filing of charges against MOKHTAR BELMOKHTAR for, among other things, his alleged participation in the January 2013 terrorist attack on a Western-owned gas processing facility near In Amenas, Algeria, that killed three Americans and scores of Algerian and foreign nationals. BELMOKHTAR is charged in an eight-count criminal Amended Complaint with various offenses including conspiracy 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. BELMOKHTAR remains at large.
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said: “As alleged, Mokhtar Belmokhtar unleashed a reign of terror years ago, in furtherance of his self-proclaimed goal of waging bloody jihad against the West. His efforts culminated in a four-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.”
Acting Assistant Attorney General for National Security John Carlin said: “The charges announced today underscore the Department’s commitment to bring to justice those responsible for attacks on Americans and American interests, no matter where they occur. I want to thank all of the agents, analysts, and prosecutors who helped bring about today’s result.”
FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge George Venizelos said: “The charges against Mokhtar Belmokhtar describe a fanatical jihadist leading an extremist vanguard of an extremist ideology. 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, including three Americans. Belmokhtar, in furtherance of his ‘cause,’ has shown a commitment to kidnapping and murdering Western diplomats and other civilians. The cause of justice will be served by his apprehension and prosecution.”
NYPD Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly said: “The attack in Algeria underscores the fact that American lives remain at risk from al Qaeda and its affiliates. The NYPD remains committed to the interdiction of terrorists here and abroad and to the prevention of another terrorist attack in New York City.”
A Complaint against BELMOKHTAR initially was filed under seal in Manhattan federal court, on February 26, 2013, and is attached as an Exhibit to the Amended Complaint. As alleged in the Amended Complaint:
BELMOKHTAR was designated as a foreign terrorist by the U.S. Department of Treasury in 2003. As a key leader of al Qaeda’s efforts in North Africa, from 2008 through early 2013, BELMOKHTAR has orchestrated terror attacks involving the kidnapping and murder of numerous individuals. In support of al Qaeda, BELMOKHTAR has operated under the auspices of two groups: AQIM and the Al-Mulathamin Brigade and its recently formed battalion, “The Signers in Blood” (the “Battalion”).
In December 2008, BELMOKHTAR, and others acting at his direction, kidnapped two Western diplomats working in Niger as part of a United Nations mission. The victims were held for approximately four months and then released in Mali.
In early December 2012, BELMOKHTAR issued a video-taped statement in which he announced the formation of “The Signers in Blood” Battalion, identified the “emir” of the group as Ayman al- Zawahiri, the leader of al Qaeda, and called for fighting in Algeria and elsewhere to oppose Western influence. Several weeks later, BELMOKHTAR issued another video-taped statement in which he confirmed that the Battalion was “in [the] al Qaeda organization.”
On January 16, 2013, terrorists who were part of BELMOKHTAR’s Battalion attacked a Western-owned gas processing facility in Algeria, armed with AK-47s and rocket-propelled grenade launchers. The terrorists took numerous workers inside the facility hostage by force, including Algerian nationals and citizens of the United States, the United Kingdom, Japan, Norway, the Philippines, Colombia, Romania, and other nations, while other workers fled or hid inside the facility. The terrorists attached explosives to some of the hostages, wound detonation cord around their necks, and threatened to kill them. During the siege of the facility, numerous hostages, including three U.S. citizens, were killed.
On January 21, 2013, approximately one day after the siege ended, BELMOKHTAR appeared in an online video in which he claimed responsibility for the Battalion’s attack on the facility, on behalf of al Qaeda.
Three of the hostage-takers involved in the siege were arrested and detained by foreign authorities and later separately interviewed by U.S. law enforcement officers. The hostage-takers each acknowledged their membership in an al Qaeda group, of which BELMOKTAR was the “emir,” and further stated that they had received military training in another country prior to traveling to Algeria to conduct the attack in the name of al Qaeda.
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The Amended Complaint charges BELMOKHTAR in eight Counts:
- Count One charges BELMOKHTAR with conspiring to provide material support to al Qaeda and AQIM, and carries a maximum penalty of life in prison;
- Count Two charges BELMOKHTAR with conspiring to take hostages, and carries a maximum penalty of life in prison or death;
- Count Three charges BELMOKHTAR with conspiring to discharge a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence, and carries a maximum penalty of life in prison;
- Count Four charges BELMOKHTAR with discharging a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence, and carries a maximum penalty of life in prison or death;
- Count Five charges BELMOKHTAR with conspiring to use and carry an explosive during the commission of a felony, and carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison;
- Count Six charges BELMOKHTAR with conspiring to kidnap internationally protected persons, and carries a maximum penalty of life in prison;
- Count Seven charges BELMOKHTAR with kidnapping of internationally protected persons, and carries a maximum penalty of life in prison; and
- Count Eight charges BELMOKHTAR with conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction, and carries a maximum penalty of life in prison.
The investigation of BELMOHKTAR was the result of the close cooperative efforts of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York and the New York-based Joint Terrorism Task Force of the FBI, which is comprised of FBI agents and members of the NYPD. Mr. Bharara thanked the Justice Department’s National Security Division, the U.S. Department of Justice Office of International Affairs, the FBI’s International Operations Division, and the U.S. Department of State for their assistance, as well as the international law enforcement partners involved in this investigation.
The United States Department of State, through the Rewards for Justice Program, is offering a $5 million reward for information leading to the location of BELMOKHTAR. Please see the Rewards for Justice website for further details: http://www.rewardsforjustice.net.
This case is being handled by the Office’s Terrorism and International Narcotics Unit. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Glen Kopp, Anna Skotko, and Shane Stansbury are in charge of the prosecutions, with assistance from Trial Attorney Stephen Ponticiello of the Counterterrorism Section of the Justice Department’s National Security Division.
The charges contained in the Amended Complaint are merely accusations and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.