US airstrike in Libya may not have killed Islamic State leader

First reports were simply that a U.S. airstrike in Libya against Abu Nabil, also known as Wissam Najm Abd Zayd al Zubaydi, had killed the senior Islamic State leader in Libya.
As often happens, accounts of the strike vary. Some reports such as that in The Hill simply report the attack but do not say where in Libya the attack took place. Pentagon press secretary, Peter Cook, said: "On November 13, the U.S. military conducted an airstrike in Libya against Abu Nabil, aka Wissam Najm Abd Zayd al Zubaydi, an Iraqi national who was a longtime al Qaeda operative and the senior ISIL leader in Libya, While not the first U.S. strike against terrorists in Libya, this is the first U.S. strike against an ISIL leader in Libya and it demonstrates we will go after ISIL leaders wherever they operate,"
Nabil may have been the person who provided the voice-over accompanying a video showing the beheading of 21 Coptic Christians on a beach near Sirte in February. The Islamic State occupies Sirte and the surrounding area.
The Libya Herald reported the US attack as being on Sirte. This would seem to be an obvious target for the attacks and as a place for Nabil to be. Sirte and area is the main base of IS in Libya now, as it was driven out of its former stronghold Derna as long ago as June and lost most of the few suburbs it still controlled last month.
Cook claimed: “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”.However, Nabil's death has yet to be confirmed. Cook pointed out that the attack was the first to target an IS leader in Libya, showing the U.S. will go after IS leaders wherever they are. The U.S. had attacked a farm outside the city of Ajdabiya targeting Mokhtar Belmokhtar which sources claim did not kill the terrorist leader. In July, Nabil was reported to have been arrested and hung by the Shura Council of Derna Revolutionaries who took the city from the Islamic State.
The present attack against Nabil, as it turns out, was not on Sirte but on the outskirts of Derna. The IS has been driven out of almost all of the town except for the Fataieh area on the outskirts of the city. According to sources in Derna:There had been two US raids, they told the Libya Herald, the first in Wadi al Khabtah and Wadi Bint where IS have been storing they weapons and ammunition. The second, two hours later, was on the Fataieh area, were the fighters were killed.The sources said 10 IS fighters had been killed by the raids. Most of the IS forces are in nearby mountains but they still mount counter-attacks against Derna from time to time. The Derna sources claimed Nabil had been in Sirte but was thought to have left Libya.
The Derna sources may be unreliable, but then the Pentagon claims are not always reliable either. It may be difficult to verify his death. Even the Pentagon claimed only that they were "reasonably certain" that Nabil had been killed. If Nabil were killed near Derna, it shows that he was a leader who did not fear going into very dangerous areas where the Islamic State is very much on the defensive. While the larger territory in the area is controlled by the internationally-recognized House of Representatives(HoR) government, Derna and the outlying area is under the control of militant groups allied with the rival General National Congress government in Tripoli, except for a few areas in the mountains and outskirts of Derna controlled by the Islamic State. It may be difficult for the US to get any hard confirmation of Nabil's death. On some occasions, the IS itself admits to leaders being killed.
There is no mention as to whether the US obtained permission from either Libyan government for the raid. The HoR air force also apparently attacked the same area as well. There are reports of drones operating over Sirte and surrounding area suggesting that the US might be contemplating bombing Sirte. At the end of October there were bombing attacks by mystery planes on Sirte with neither Libya government claiming responsibility. The world press seems uninterested in finding out whose planes they might be.


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