U.S. air raid hits Islamic State in Libya, 43 dead

Sat Feb 20, 2016 8:37am GMT
 

By Ahmed Elumami and Aidan Lewis

TRIPOLI (Reuters) - U.S. warplanes launched air strikes 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 neighbouring Tunisia.

It was the second U.S. air strike in three months against Islamic State in Libya, where the hardline Islamist militants have exploited years of chaos following Muammar Gaddafi's 2011 overthrow to build up a presence on the southern shores of the Mediterranean Sea.

The Pentagon said it had targeted an Islamic State training camp. 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 U.S. interests in the region," the Pentagon said, using an acronym for Islamic State, also known as ISIS or Daesh.

U.S. 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 U.S. willingness to fight Islamic State.

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

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

The mayor of Sabratha, Hussein al-Thwadi, told Reuters the planes hit a building in the city's Qasr Talil district, home to many foreigners.   Continued...

Old Roman ruins stand in the ancient archeaological site of Sabratha on Libya's Mediterreanean coast, June 1, 2013.   REUTERS/Ismail Zitouny
 
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