AFRICOM: US strike in Libya killed wanted senior al-Qaida terrorist

By COREY DICKSTEIN | STARS AND STRIPES Published: March 28, 2018

WASHINGTON — A high-ranking al-Qaida leader was killed Saturday in an American airstrike against the terrorist organization’s North Africa affiliate in the desert of southwest Libya, U.S. Africa Command announced Wednesday.

The airstrike targeted the remote town of Ubari and killed Musa Abu Dawud, a senior member of al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb who was responsible for training and providing weapons to militants in the region, according to an AFRICOM statement. One other al-Qaida terrorist was killed in the strike and no civilians were killed, according to the statement.

“Now that operational reporting and the battle damage assessment is fully complete, the command is able to confirm the death of Dawud,” the AFRICOM statement read.

AFRICOM said the strike was launched in coordination with Libya’s Government of National Accord, the nation’s UN-recognized government.

Dawud was named a specially designated global terrorist by the State Department in May 2016. The State Department charges Dawud has been active in terrorism since at least 1992, linking him to multiple attacks across North Africa, including deadly assaults on military targets in Algeria and Tunisia in 2013.

The State Department also lists him as the commander of the southern zone for al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb and the group’s senior recruiting and training official.

The strike conducted Saturday was the first known American attack against the al-Qaida affiliate in Libya, where the United States launched a large air campaign against Islamic State terrorists in 2016 to back forces fighting for the Government of National Accord to retake the northern city of Sirte. It was the second airstrike U.S. warplanes have conducted in Libya in 2018, according to the Pentagon.

AFRICOM said the strike was conducted under authorities approved by Congress in the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force, powers provided the Pentagon to strike al-Qaida in the weeks following the terrorist attack on New York and Washington, D.C. on Sept. 11, 2001.

“Al-Qaida and other terrorist groups, such as ISIS, have taken advantage of under-governed spaces in Libya to establish sanctuaries for plotting, inspiring, and directing terror attacks; recruiting and facilitating the movement of foreign terrorist fighters, and raising and moving funds to support their operations,” the AFRICOM statement read. “Left unaddressed, these organizations could continue to inflict casualties on the civilian populations and security forces, and plot attacks against U.S. citizens and allied interests in the region.”

A Pentagon spokesman declined to provide an estimate of how many fighters are part of al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb.

The group, which joined al-Qaida in 2006, has focused its terrorist attacks primarily in North Africa and has never successfully attacked the United States or any European country, according to the Council on Foreign Relations, a New York-based nonpartisan foreign affairs think tank.

Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb aims to overthrow the governments of Algeria, Libya, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco and Tunisia and install fundamentalist regimes governed by their strict interpretations of Sharia law, according to an assessment by the Combating Terrorism Center at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in New York.

Twitter: @CDicksteinDC

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