Pentagon: ISIS suspect in Benghazi attack killed in Iraq

ISIS member suspected of involvement in bombing attack on US outpost in Libya's Benghazi three years ago killed in air strike on Iraq’s Mosul

Photo by: AP
Photo by: AP

Updated Jul 28, 2015

Ali Awni al Harzi, who was suspected of involvement in the 2012 attack on the US outpost in Benghazi in Libya, has been killed by a US air strike in Iraq, the Pentagon said on Monday.

The Pentagon said al Harazi, a Tunisian national, was killed in Mosul on June 15. He reportedly joined ISIS a year ago.

Al Harzi "operated closely with multiple ISIL-associated extremists throughout North Africa and the Middle East," Defense Department spokesman Col. Steve Warren said in a statement.

The Benghazi’ attack on Sept. 11, 2012, on the US outpost in the city killed four Americans, including Christopher Stevens, the US ambassador to Libya.

California Rep. Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said al Harzi "was responsible for planning hundreds of suicide attacks across the world and was one of the first foreign fighters"

Schiff added al Harzi "was also responsible for recruiting foreign fighters and sending them to the fight in Syria," and that he "was also suspected of involvement in their hostage program, and to have played a role in the ... attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi."

Pentagon spokesman Colonel Steve Warren said "His death degrades ISIL's [ISIS] ability to integrate North African jihadists into the Syrian and Iraqi fight and removes a jihadist with long ties to international terrorism."

Al Harzi was designated a global terrorist in April by the US treasury and State Department.

A US-led coalition has launched a campaign of air strikes targeting ISIS strongholds in the group’s heartland in Iraq and Syria since last September.

Libya is currently divided between two parliamentary bodies since the House of Representatives (HoR) was formed after a largely boycotted election with a turnout of less than 20 percent. Following this, armed attempts by HoR-loyal militias failed to forcibly disband the General National Council - the Libyan parliament formed with the help of the UN and NATO following the ouster of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

The conflict in Libya led to widespread clashes when HoR army head Khalifa Haftar launched “Operation Dignity” in an armed bid to capture the cities of Benghazi, Misrata and Tripoli from the GNC last August, with fighting in Benghazi remaining heated ever since.

Now operating out of the eastern border town of Tobruk, the HoR enjoys greater international influence than the GNC though the GNC retains control over most of Libya’s internal affairs.

Due to the lack of order in eastern Libya ISIS was able to expand its influence uncontested on the ground, occupying Derna and parts of the central city of Sirte where forces from the Tripoli-allied Dawn Alliance’s 166th Misratan battalion continue to clash with the militants.  

TRTWorld and agencies