In an airstrike planned before Friday’s Paris jihadist attacks, U.S. fighters in two F-15s killed the head of the Islamic State in Libya, a Pentagon spokesman reported on Saturday.
The strike targeted and killed Abu Nabil, aka Wissam Najm Abd Zayd al Zubaydi, near the eastern port city of Darnah on Friday. An Iraqi national, Nabil was the ranking ISIS leader in Libya after having been an al-Qaeda operative for years. He is also suspected to have been the spokesman in the gruesome video showing the beheading of 21 Coptic Christians by ISIS militants in February.
According to the Pentagon’s Peter Cook, Nabil’s death “will degrade ISIS’ ability to meet the group’s objectives in Libya, including recruiting new ISIS members, establishing bases in Libya, and planning external attacks on the United States.”
This is not the first time this year that Nabil has been reported to be dead. In July, Nabil was said to have been captured by a rival Islamist group in the Libyan city of Derna, forced to march through the streets, and hanged before a screaming mob.
Saturday’s announcement came in the wake of the Islamic State’s claim that it was responsible for Friday’s attacks in Paris that killed at least 129 people during a series of suicide bombings and shootings in several different sites in the city.
The Pentagon spokesman, however, said that the air strike against Abu Nabil was “authorized and initiated prior to the terrorist attack in Paris.”
American officials have also said they were “reasonably confident” that a Hellfire missile fired from a drone over the Syrian city of Raqqa on Thursday killed Mohammed Emwazi, aka “Jihadi John,” a Kuwaiti who moved to Britain while still a boy.
Libya has been in a state of chaos ever since the fall of Moamer Kadhafi in its 2011 revolution and ISIS had established a stronghold there in the fall of 2014, capturing the city of Derna.
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter @tdwilliamsrome