Sun, Feb 21, 2016 - Page 5 News List

US air raid hits Islamic State in Libya, killing 43

Reuters, TRIPOLI

People gather by the wreckage of a car after a US airstrike on a house and training camp belonging to the Islamic State group, west of Sabratha, Libya, on Friday.

Photo: AP

US warplanes launched airstrikes against a suspected Islamic State training camp in western Libya on Friday, killing more than 40 people, likely including a militant connected to two deadly attacks last year in Tunisia.

It was the second US airstrike in three months against Islamic State in Libya, where the hardline Islamist militants have exploited years of chaos following late Libyan leader’s Muammar Qaddafi’s 2011 overthrow to build up a presence on the southern shores of the Mediterranean Sea.

The Pentagon said it had targeted a training camp for the Islamic State, previously known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

The facility in the city of Sabratha was linked to Noureddine Chouchane, a Tunisian blamed by his native country for attacks last year on a Tunis museum and the Sousse beach resort, which killed dozens of tourists.

“Destruction of the camp and Chouchane’s removal will eliminate an experienced facilitator and is expected to have an immediate impact on ISIL’s ability to facilitate its activities in Libya, including recruiting new ISIL members, establishing bases in Libya, and potentially planning external attacks on US interests in the region,” the Pentagon said.

US officials said Chouchane is most likely dead, but White House spokesman Josh Earnest said he could not yet confirm the results of the air assault. He said the raid showed US willingness to fight the Islamic State.

“It’s an indication that the president will not hesitate to take these kinds of forceful, decisive actions,” Earnest said.

In Libya, photographs released by the municipal authorities showed a massive crater in gray earth. Several wounded men lay bandaged in hospital.

Sabratha Mayor Hussein al-Thwadi said the planes hit a building in the city’s Qasr Talil district, home to many foreigners.

Locals officials said 43 people were killed.

The strikes targeted a house in a residential district west of the center, municipal authorities said in a statement.

The house had been rented to foreigners including Tunisians suspected of belonging to the Islamic State, and medium-caliber weapons including machineguns and rocket-propelled grenades had been found in the rubble, the statement said.

The airstrikes came just days after a warning by US President Barack Obama that Washington intended to “take actions where we’ve got a clear operation and a clear target in mind” against the Islamic State.

Britain said it had authorized the use of its airbases to launch the attack.

The Islamic State runs a self-styled caliphate across swathes of Iraq and Syria, where it has faced airstrikes from a US-led coalition since 2014.

Since Qaddafi was overthrown five years ago by rebel forces backed by NATO airstrikes, Libya has slipped deeper into chaos, with two rival governments each backed by competing factions of former rebel brigades.

A UN-backed government of national accord is trying to win support, but is still awaiting parliamentary approval. It is opposed by factional hardliners and has yet to establish itself in the capital, Tripoli.

The Islamic State has expanded, attacking oil ports and taking over Qaddafi’s home city of Sirte, now the militant group’s most important stronghold outside its main redoubts in Syria and Iraq.

Calls have increased for a swift Western response to stop the group establishing itself more permanently and using Libya as a base for attacks on neighbors Tunisia and Egypt.

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