Hunt begins for kidnap kingpin

WASHINGTON: A massive international manhunt is under way for Mokhtar Belmokhtar, the one-eyed Islamist leader who masterminded the Algerian hostagetaking.

French special forces were among those deployed to find the man who is now the world's most wanted terrorist.

US special forces are also set to be dispatched to friendly north African countries.

The Pentagon is under pressure to use drones to find and kill Mr Belmokhtar, who is believed to have ordered the attack from rebel-controlled northern Mali.

The US is already drawing up plans to expand its counterterrorism operations on the continent in response to the siege.

The initial focus will be to track down Mr Belmokhtar.

There is a growing feeling in Washington that the Islamist insurrection in Mali and the Algerian crisis represent a tipping point for greater US military intervention in the region.

Mr Belmokhtar's well-funded forces have been bolstered in recent months by an influx of guns and tribal Tuareg mercenaries from Libya following the overthrow of the Gaddafi regime.

Much of his funding has come from previous kidnaps of Westerners for ransom.

Telegraph, London

This story Hunt begins for kidnap kingpin first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.