Belmokhtar – also known as The One-Eyed and The Uncatchable – was believed to have died in a US airstrike on a farm in eastern Libya last June, along with several other militants. His death was never confirmed by al-Qaeda.
"We took a shot, but we could never really confirm his demise," a US official told the Washington Post on Wednesday.
Belmokhtar made a name for himself during a decade-long campaign of insurgency, kidnappings and arms smuggling across North Africa and the Sahel. US military and intelligence agencies were tracking him for years before dropping bombs from F-15 jets on the Libyan farm where he was believed to be located.
According to the newspaper, concerns have also been raised about the actual victims of the June airstrike, just as the US government is being pressured by civil liberties groups to be more transparent about so-called targeted killings overseas.