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US Charges Alleged al-Qaida Leader in Algeria Attack

Veteran jihadist Mokhtar Belmokhtar speaks in this undated still image taken from a video released by Sahara Media on January 21, 2013.
The U.S. government has charged Mokhtar Belmokhtar with participating in an attack on an Algerian gas processing plant that killed scores of people, including three Americans.

The Department of Justice filed the charges Friday in New York, accusing the Algerian-born Belmokhtar of serving as a leader of al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb. Among the charges, he is accused of kidnapping, conspiring to use weapons of mass destruction and providing material support to al-Qaida. Most of the charges have maximum life sentences.

In January, militants suspected of being Belmokhtar's followers attacked the gas processing facility in Algeria, taking hundreds of Algerian and foreign workers hostage. More than 30 hostages were killed before Algerian government forces recaptured the plant. Belmokhtar claimed responsibility on behalf of al-Qaida.

Belmokhtar has not been captured and the United States is offering a $5 million reward for information leading to his location.

Also Friday, lawyers for the son-in-law of Osama bin Laden, the late al-Qaida leader, asked a federal court to drop terrorism charges against him.

Sulaiman Abu Ghaith's lawyers filed motions alleging that he was subjected to conditions which amounted to torture, that he was illegally detained, and that his right to a speedy trial has been violated.

U.S. agents took Abu Ghaith into custody in Jordan in February, and are accusing of him acting as a spokesman for al-Qaida and conspiring to kill Americans. He is being held in New York awaiting trial.