Libyans arrest wife of senior al-Qaida-linked militant

BENGHAZI, Libya (AP) " Libyan authorities said Tuesday that they have arrested a wife of the one-eyed militant leader Mokhtar Belmokhtar, once considered the most dangerous man in the Sahara and a veteran al-Qaida-linked figure.

A Libyan anti-terrorism force said that one of Belmokhtar's wives, Asma Kadousi, was arrested Saturday along with a female companion. It said she had recently given birth in the militant stronghold of Darna, in eastern Libya. It said Belmokhtar is believed to be in southern Libya.

A witness told The Associated Press earlier this month that he had seen Belmokhtar in the southern town of Sabha, where a drone attack reportedly killed a militant leader linked to Belmokhtar, along with six others, last week. The witness asked not to be named for security concerns, and it was not possible to confirm the report.

The Algerian militant, once a top figure in al-Qaida's North African affiliate, is one of the most-wanted militants in the region, with a $5 million reward for information leading to his capture. He escaped a U.S. drone strike in eastern Libya last year.

Belmokhtar led the January 2013 attack on Algeria's Ain Amenas gas complex, in which at least 35 hostages, including three Americans, were killed.

Believed to be 43 years old, he was dubbed "the one-eyed sheikh" after losing an eye in combat.

He was later named the leader of the Morabitoon, an al-Qaida-linked group that operates in northern and western Africa, according to the Long War Journal, a blog that monitors jihadi groups.

Libya has been plagued by chaos since the 2011 uprising, in which U.S. and European airstrikes helped rebels overthrow the longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi.

Today much of the country is controlled by a patchwork of armed groups, some of which are allied to a U.N.-backed government based in the capital, Tripoli, and others allied to authorities based in the country's far east.

The U.N.-brokered government on Tuesday condemned the killing of a senior religious official who was abducted in Tripoli a month ago. It was not clear who killed Nader al-Omrani, but he was a member of a religious body that is strongly opposed to Field Marshal Khalifa Hifter, who leads forces allied with the eastern government.

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This story has been corrected to show that Belmokhtar was a top figure in al-Qaida's North African affiliate, not its overall leader.

This story has been automatically published from the Associated Press wire which uses US spellings

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