The U.S. military launched an air strike against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in Libya, targeting their senior leader and killing him, the Pentagon said.
Abu Nabil, or Wissam Najm Abd Zayd al-Zubaydi was a “long-time al-Qaeda operative,” it said. A compound in Derna was the target of the airstrike, which occurred on Friday. The air strike was an indication that it would go after IS leaders “wherever they operate,” Pentagon said. Spokesperson Peter Cook said, “[Abu] 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.”
The Pentagon’s announcement on Saturday comes as ISIL claimed responsibility for Friday’s Paris attacks where suicide bombings and shootings killed as many as 129 people in the French capital. However, it is saying that the air strikes were planned and authorized before the attacks on Friday.
There is likelihood that Nabil was the spokesperson shown in a video footage from February this year that captured the murder of Coptic Christians in Libya, BBC reports.
Friday’s air strikes were carried out by an aircraft equipped with night vision systems, according to a witness. These strikes occurred in areas under the control of ISIL fighters in the city’s southeast suburb of Fattayah. They are being considered significant because of the connections and ties that Nabil shared with ISIL’s main leadership, according to a U.S. official.
“There’s a lot of people around the world who call themselves ISIL. But those are people who have taken the ISIL brand and there’s no relationship with the home office,” the official said. “But this guy [Abu Nabil] had a no-kidding relationship back with main ISIL.”
Since Muammar Gaddafi’s overthrow four years ago, ISIL has gained stronghold and it controls the city of Sirte, as reported by Al Jazeera.