United States air strike on a jihadist training camp in Libya killed dozens of people Friday, probably including a senior Islamic State group operative behind attacks in Tunisia, officials said.
Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook said Noureddine Chouchane, also known as “Sabir,” and other jihadists had been planning attacks against American and other Western interests.
“We took this action against Sabir in the training camp after determining that both he and the ISIL fighters at these facilities were planning external attacks on US and other Western interests in the region,” Cook said, without providing specifics.
“We see what’s happening in Iraq and Syria and we believe that these fighters in Libya posed a threat to our national security interests.”
It was the second US air raid in the violence-wracked North African country targeting the fast-expanding jihadist group in the past three months.
The strike early Friday near the city of Sabratha “likely killed” IS operative Chouchane, a US official said earlier.
Britain’s defence ministry said the strike on the camp was carried out from a Royal Air Force base, RAF Lakenheath.
A jihadist safe house was destroyed in the dawn raid about 70 kilometres (42 miles) west of Tripoli, according to Hussein al-Dawadi, an official in Sabratha near the border with Tunisia.
“The latest toll shows that 49 people were killed,” including up to three women, he told AFP.
“There are also five wounded, some of them are in critical condition.”
“It looks like someone important was in the house, but we cannot confirm that for now,” Dawadi added.
US State Department spokesman Mark Toner said that as IS came under pressure in Iraq and Syria it was seeking to establish itself elsewhere, and “Libya has been an area of concern for some time”.
“As we have opportunities we’re gonna carry out airstrikes against those ISIL elements that are operating in Libya,” he said.