Royce: Belmokhtar's death a 'hard blow' to jihadists in North Africa

Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said on Saturday that Belmokhtar’s death would be a “hard blow to the collection of jihadists operating across the region that are targeting American diplomats and energy workers.”

Belmokhtar is believed to be the leader of the al Qaeda offshoot that took dozens of foreigners hostage at a natural gas facility in the Algerian desert in January, causing the deaths of three Americans.

Chad’s military chief said its soldiers killed Belmokhtar, according to Reuters.

"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," Chadian armed forces spokesman General Zacharia Gobongue said.

A statement from Royce’s office said that the State Department estimates that Belmokhtar has raised approximately $50 million from ransoms. Belmokhtar has been tracked by the Central Intelligence Agency since the early 1990s, it said.