US air strike targets senior DAESH leader in Libya

Pentagon says air strike targeted senior DAESH leader in Libya, marking first operation of its kind in country

Photo by: AP
Photo by: AP

A US F-15 jet

Updated Nov 15, 2015

The US military on Saturday said it launched an air strike on a compound in the Libyan city of Derna, targeting a top DAESH leader in the country.

The terrorist group has become more active in Libya since last year, taking advantage of the instability which emerged after former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi was overthrown four years ago.

Abu Nabil, also known as Wissam Najm Abd Zayd al Zubaydi, was targeted in the air strike on Friday the Pentagon said in a statement on Saturday.

The operation carried out by US F-15 fighter jets was successful and the target was likely killed in the air strike, US officials told Reuters, speaking on condition of anonymity.

"Nabil's death will degrade [DAESH's] ability to meet the group's objectives in Libya, including recruiting new [DAESH] members, establishing bases in Libya, and planning external attacks on the United States," Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook said.

The Pentagon said the strike was authorised and planned prior to the attacks in Paris which killed 129 people on Friday and claimed by DAESH.

According to the Pentagon, Nabil, an Iraqi national, was also a longtime Al Qaeda operative.

The strike on Nabil came just a day after the US targeted a DAESH terrorist known as "Jihadi John," who carried out beheadings of American and British hostages.

A US official said the strike on Nabil is significant since he has close ties to DAESH's main leadership.

"There's a lot of people around the world who call themselves ISIL [DAESH]. But those are people who have taken the [DAESH] brand and there's no relationship with the home office," the official said.

"But this guy [Nabil] had a no-kidding relationship back with main ISIL [DAESH]."

Pentagon spokesman Cook said this is the first US strike targeting a DAESH leader in Libya, although there have previously been strikes against terrorists in the country.

DAESH is mostly based in the city of Sirte in Libya, however they also have a presence in Derna.

Cook said Nabil may have been the spokesman of DAESH in the group's video in February showing the execution of Coptic Christians.

Libya is currently divided into two parliaments with their own armed forces, the General National Council (GNC) in the country's capital Tripoli, which was founded with the help of the United States and France after Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi was deposed in 2011, and the rival House of Representatives.

The House of Representatives, which has also been operating from the Egyptian border town of Tobruk since June, was formed following armed uprisings by groups loyal to the renegade General Khalifa Hafter in 2014.

Armed fighting between the two administrations has brought the country’s oil-dependent economy to its knees.

Adding to the ongoing crisis in Libya, country's security has also rapidly deteriorated as DAESH militants and other armed groups not linked to either government exploit the current power vacuum.

TRTWorld and agencies