Although undoubtedly religiously motivated, he has a long history of kidnapping and smuggling, both to finance his operations and to enhance his prestige among rival radical groups.
Belmokhtar is a 40-year-old Algerian, shrewd enough to elude numerous attempts by Saharan nations to kill or capture him.
He seems determined to mount a radical Islamic insurgency across the Sahara and northern Africa.
His support for the revolution in Mali is likely only the start.
The last thing the Obama administration wants is another war, but there may be no way of avoiding this one or at least aggressively supporting France and the African countries fighting it. If there isn’t a drone looking for Belmokhtar, there should be.
Dale McFeatters writes for the Scripps Howard News Service.