Mon, Nov 16, 2015 - Page 7 News List

US strike kills IS leader in Libya

PENTAGON ANNOUNCEMENT:The airstrike was the first US mission against an IS leader in Libya and came two days after a US strike killed the British-born ‘Jihadi John’

AFP, WASHINGTON

An image grab from a video released by the al-Hayat Media Centre on Feb. 15 purportedly shows a man the US Pentagon believes to be Abu Nabil, also known as Wissam Najm Abd Zayd al-Zubaydi, who was killed in an airstrike in Libya on Nov. 14.

Photo: AFP / Handout / al- Hayat Media Centre

An F-15 fighter jet strike killed the head of the Islamic State (IS) group in Libya, the Pentagon on Saturday said, in another high-profile US hit following the targeting of the most-wanted “Jihadi John.”

The announcement came after the extremist group said it was responsible for Friday’s attacks in Paris that killed at least 129 people during an onslaught of bombings and shootings on the French capital, though the Pentagon said the two events were not connected.

Washington has orchestrated an air campaign going after the IS group and senior figures in Syria and Iraq, but this is the first US strike against an IS leader in Libya.

Abu Nabil, also known as Wissam Najm Abd Zayd al-Zubaydi, was the senior IS leader in Libya and may also have been the spokesman in a grisly video showing the execution of Coptic Christians, Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook said in a statement.

Cook said Abu Nabil was an Iraqi national and al-Qaeda operative.

The footage released by IS online earlier this year showed handcuffed hostages wearing orange jumpsuits being beheaded by black-suited captors in a coastal area the group said was in the Libyan province of Tripoli.

“Nabil’s death will degrade ISIL’s [Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant] ability to meet the group’s objectives in Libya, including recruiting new ISIL members, establishing bases in Libya, and planning external attacks on the United States,” Cook said.

“While not the first US strike against terrorists in Libya, this is the first US strike against an ISIL leader in Libya and it demonstrates we will go after ISIL leaders wherever they operate,” he said.

The Pentagon spokesman said the operation overnight against Abu Nabil was “authorized and initiated prior to the terrorist attack in Paris.”

A senior US official said that the airstrike struck a command and control center near the eastern port city of Darnah and likely killed Nabil and others with him.

IS jihadists are killing more civilians than other warring factions in the North African country, but all sides are committing “large-scale crimes,” International Criminal Court chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda has said.

The UN has been brokering talks to create a new unity government to end fighting between the army and the militias that seized Tripoli, with the UN envoy to Libya voicing hope that an agreement is imminent.

Saturday’s announcement came two days after the US military conducted a strike targeting the British-born IS executioner known as “Jihadi John.”

The US has said it is “reasonably certain” that the militant was killed in a drone strike in Syria.

Mohammed Emwazi, whose masked figure appeared in a string of graphic videos showing the beheading of Western hostages, was targeted in a combined British-US operation in Raqa, the de facto IS capital in Syria.

According to a US official, the attack against Abu Nabil was carried out by US F-15 fighter jets.

The aircraft are the same kind deployed in June to carry out another air strike in Libya which aimed to kill one-eyed Islamist leader Mokhtar Belmokhtar, who was linked to al-Qaeda. However, his death has never been confirmed with certainty.

Additional reporting by AP

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