Notorious extremist Belmoktar said to head al-Qaida’s West Africa branch

A militant group that has claimed responsibility for recent violence in Mali has rebranded itself as al-Qaida’s West Africa branch while reaffirming that it is led by the notorious extremist Moktar Belmoktar.

The SITE Intelligence Group, a U.S. monitoring outfit, said the latest statement from Belmoktar’s Mourabitoune organization was distributed on Twitter this week.

Belmoktar, who is known for daring attacks and for kidnapping foreigners, has been reported killed numerous times, most recently in June.

In May he rejected a pledge of allegiance to the Islamic State group made by a different member of his organization.

On Aug. 9 Mourabitoune reportedly claimed responsibility for an attack in central Mali that killed 10 soldiers and United Nations contractors along with three jihadists.

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