Cairo- The U.S. air force on Feb.19 clamped down a house believed to harbor a group of extremists in Sabratha city, located in the northwestern corner of modern Libya near borders with Tunisia. The airstrike left 41 dead and 6 injured.
Sabratha Mayor Hussein al-Thawadi described the site as an ISIS recruitment base for foreigners, mostly from Tunisia. The house was pounded into rubble, al-Thawadi told Asharq Al-Awsat.
COL Mark Cheadle, U.S. spokesman in Africa, revealed that Noureddine Chouchane, a senior operative in the terrorist group from Tunisia, was believed to be among those targeted by the air raid.
Chouchane is thought to have played an instrumental role in two terror attacks in Tunisia last year, one at Tunis’ Bardo Museum that killed 23 people and another at a seaside resort in Sousse that left 38 dead. ISIS claimed responsibility for both massacres.
The U.S. military has launched hundreds of airstrikes against ISIS targets over the past two years.
The attack was only hours after Martin Kobler, U.N. Special representative to Libya, had said that it is not the right time for performing airstrikes against ISIS targets in Libya. Kobler considers that any air campaign might hinder the process of forming a new unity government in Libya, which holds the capacity of fulfilling its duties.
Libya slid into conflict after the uprising that toppled Muammar Gaddafi five years ago. Since 2014, it has had two competing governments, one based in Tripoli and the other in the east, both of which are backed by loose alliances of armed brigades and former rebels.
ISIS has taken advantage of the missing security to establish a foothold in Libya, taking control of the city of Sirte and threatening to expand from there. Western governments have urged Libyan factions to back the unity government so that it can start taking on any threats and call in international support where needed.