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U.S. warplanes have carried out attacks on Islamic State militants, targeting an apparent training camp in Sabratha, some 70 kilometers west of the capital, Tripoli.
The air strike wave is said to have killed at least 40 people, according to the US Department of Defense.
A key target was Tunisian extremist Noureddine Chouchane (aka Sabir), who is said to be a senior ISIS facilitator in Libya. U.S. officials said it was “likely” that Chouchane was among those killed, but there is no official confirmation of that.
“Destruction of the camp and Chouchane's removal will eliminate an experienced facilitator and is expected to have an immediate impact on ISIL's ability to facilitate its activities in Libya, including recruiting new ISIL members, establishing bases in Libya, and potentially planning external attacks on U.S. interests in the region,” Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook said.
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Noureddine Chouchane has been linked to two attacks in Tunisia last year, including an attack that killed 30 British tourists.
Civil war-torn Libya is an easy target for the Islamic State, which has largely taken control of the Libyan city of Sirte and its hundreds of miles of coastline, and ransacked two key oil terminals in an attempt to wrest control from fragile Libyan officials. ISIS is banking on taking over these oil facilities and is now reportedly recruiting its own oil and gas engineers.
The U.S. estimates that the group has some 6,000 fighters now active in Libya.
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Media reported that small teams of U.S., British, French and Italian special forces were present in Libya in recent months, helping the local authorities with aerial surveillance, mapping and intelligence gathering.
Earlier this week, a MiG-23 fighter jet of Libya's internationally recognized government has been shot down while carrying out airstrikes against militant positions in the coastal city of Benghazi.
By Charles Kennedy of Oilprice.com
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Charles is a writer for Oilprice.com