US warplanes kill off IS leader in East Libya: Pentagon

Libya Channel

The US military launched an airstrike in Libya on Sunday killing an Iraqi national believed to be a longterm al-Qaeda operative and Islamic State group leader who appeared in a gruesome February execution video.

The F-15 fighter jet attack occurred in the early hours of Saturday morning on IS positions to the south-west of Derna, eyewitnesses on the ground told Libya Channel.

The target was Abu Nabil, also known as Wissam Najm Abd Zayd al Zubaydi, an IS spokesman who appeared in a February propaganda clip showing the grisly execution of 21 Christians from Egypt,  Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook confirmed Saturday.

“Nabil’s death will degrade ISIL’s ability to meet the group’s objectives in Libya including recruiting new ISIL members, establishing bases in Libya, and planning external attacks on the United States,” Cook said, using the American acronym for the global terror group.

“While not the first US strike against terrorists in Libya, this is the first US strike against an ISIL leader in Libya and it demonstrates we will go after ISIL leaders wherever they operate,” he added.

An official speaking to Reuters said that while several jihadi groups around the world have called themselves IS, many of the offshoots do not have a proper relationship with “the home office” in Syria and Iraq. However Abu Nabil, he said, was part of the main infrastructure of the terror organization.

“This guy (Nabil) had a no-kidding relationship back with main ISIL,” the official said.

Sources close the jihadis in Derna told Libya Channel that Abu Nabil was a major “international connection” for IS and had been more commonly known by his nickname “Al-Anbari”, referencing the western province in Iraq where is believed to be from.

“He is one of the main international connections for IS and has been since he arrived in Derna over a year ago,” the source said.
Abu Nabil became a prominent figure in IS after local jihadi groups pledged allegiance to IS emir Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi last October, the source added. It’s unconfirmed if he was sent to Derna to establish IS there.

The airstrikes came as IS claimed responsibility for Friday’s attacks in Paris in which at least 129 people were killed in multiple suicide bombings and shootings. Washington maintained the Libya operation was authorized and initiated before the terror attack in Paris took place.
Eyewitnesses in Derna said the sorties – which lasted for several house – started at 3am in the Al-Fataieh neighborhood, south-east of Derna.

“The planes circled for a while before dropping the missiles. We knew immediately they weren’t Libyan planes they were too sophisticated, and operating in the middle of the night,” the resident said.

IS launched its Libya affiliate in Derna last October. The group suffered a temporary set back in June when rival extremists drove it out of its stronghold and into the countryside surrounding the eastern town.

They shifted their main operations to Sirte, in the centre of the country, where they have implemented strict interpretation of Sharia Law and staged other bloody massacres of anti-jihadi rebels, perceived apostates and Christians.

In Paris IS launched their deadliest attack yet on western soil over the weekend – just weeks after their affiliate in Egypt claimed responsibility for the downing of Russian passenger jet full of tourists who had been holidaying in Sharm el-Sheikh.
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